The former Westford animal control officer was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail today after he pleaded not guilty to charges he stole 11 town-owned firearms and sold them on the black market.
An alleged Lowell drug dealer was found with one of the firearms, a.40 caliber semi automatic pistol loaded with two rounds, this April, according to authorities.
Michael Harrington, 45, pleaded not guilty in Ayer District Court to larceny of firearms charges where bail was set at $5,000 cash. Harrington has also been indicted and will be arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn at a future date, according to prosecutors.
His district court attorney, Jay Thiel, declined comment today.
According to Westford police, Harrington allegedly stole eight handguns, two shotguns and a .22 caliber rifle. Westford town manager Jodi Ross said today that the town provides a handgun to each of four animal control officers, and that the town also purchased shotguns and a rifle for use by the animal control officers.
"We have four animal control officers in town and all are licensed ot carry,'' she said. "They were issued a pistol each.''
Ross said the town purchased four replacement handguns recently, but did not get rid of the older firearms. Harrington, she said, is accused of stealing both the old and replacement firearms.
Ross said that Harrington voluntarily resigned from his job in April with Westboro and that he, through a joint agreement, also worked as the animal control officer for Tyngsboro.
Ross noted, as did Middlesex prosecutors, that the town launched its own investigation into Harringotn when they discovered some high priced tools were disappearing from town property.
Michael Harrington faces indictments charging him with 11 counts of larceny of a firearm, four counts of larceny over $250 and receiving stolen property.
“This defendant abused his authority and the public’s trust and has seriously compromised the safety and security of the people of Massachusetts by then distributing the stolen guns,'' Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. said in a statement today.
In Lowell on April 9, police arrested an alleged drug dealer – identified by prosecutors as Alberto Ramos -- and discovered that the firearm he was carrying had allegedly been stolen from the town of Westford, prosecutors said.
The 10 other firearms are still missing, prosecutors said.
That same day, Westford town officials began investigating the disappearance of costly equipment, thefts Harrington was suspected of committing. Surveillance cameras near the town's school department maintenance garage were repositioned to focus on Harrington's office, and an inventory of town equipment was performed on April 9.
Three days later, the town discovered a $300 chain saw, an $800 power broom and another power tool worth $300 were missing. Harrington was allegedly seen leaving the building on April 11 at 5:20 pm. With the power broom in his hand, prosecutors said.
Westford Police executed a search warrant on Harrington's Tyngsborough home where they allegedly recovered the power broom. Police also searched Harrington's office and determined that the 11 firearms issued to the defendant and his department were missing and that the defendant did not have a locked cabinet or trigger locks in his office.
In Westford, the animal control officer is not part of the police department.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more