As 1,500 customers await $1 million in refunds, a superior court judge barred Michael Larocque, the owner of a Merrimack Valley driving school charged with trafficking drugs, from selling or transferring any of his assets.
A preliminary injunction issued by Judge Jeffrey Karp also prohibits Larocque — a Lawrence resident who owns North Andover Auto School and MV Auto School in Haverhill — from directly or indirectly destroying any "documents, computers, computerized files, storage media on electronic devices on which information is stored or saved including but not limited to contracts, bills, invoices or receipts for services," according to court papers.
Attorney General Maura Healey filed a civil lawsuit in March against Larocque, 56, who was charged in September with trafficking methamphetamines after a lengthy investigation involving local, state and federal authorities.
Healey's lawsuit seeks refunds and penalties for 1,500 students from the Merrimack Valley and Greater Newburyport after Larocque was arrested for trafficking methamphetamines, initially held on bail, and failed to deliver services to customers, according to investigators.
Late last week, Healey's office sought a preliminary injunction in Salem Superior Court to freeze Larocque's assets for consumer restitution.
The judge issued the injunction while writing "there is a reasonable likelihood" that Healey will recover money spent by the driving school students "including interest and costs."
After Larocque' arrest, the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles revoked the driving school’s license, as well as Larocque’s license to teach driver’s education.
Larocque operated RMV-licensed driving schools in North Andover and Haverhill, at North Andover High School and also as Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover, according to Healey.
“The schools provided instruction to primarily teenaged students throughout the North Shore, including those from: North Andover, Andover, Methuen, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimac, Amesbury, Salisbury, Newburyport, West Newbury, Georgetown, Groveland and Boxford,” according to information released by Healey’s office.
Students paid between $550 to $750 for driver’s education courses, Healey said.
Larocque’s arrest and the abrupt closure of the schools that followed left many students on the hook, unable to pay for another driving school, Healey said.
Also, the lawsuit says that even before the registry pulled Larocque's licenses, his auto school “was operating in an unfair and/or deceptive manner because the business misrepresented its ability to provide classroom and driving hours to consumers when it reopened after the COVID-related closure in the spring of 2020,” according to Healey.
Since his release on bail in February, Larocque “not only continued to fail to responsibly wind up the business,” he also misappropriated school assets by transferring three of the school’s cars into his name, according to Healey.
The injunction issued by the judge prevents Larocque from transferring "or in any way disposing of ownership" any personal property or money.
Larocque was recently indicted by an Essex County grand jury on two counts of trafficking methamphetamines over 200 grams. He was also charged with one count of illegal possession of a class D substance, one count of trafficking 36 to 100 grams of methamphetamine and one count of illegal possession of a class A substance, according to court papers.
Investigators seized the drugs after executing search warrants at Larocque’s 69 Colonial Road home in Lawrence and the North Andover Auto School at 203 Turnpike St., Unit 404, in North Andover, investigators said.
At the time of his arrest, detectives said they had made “controlled purchases” of methamphetamines from Larocque’s Lawrence home and the school.
Larocque faces arraignment this week in Salem Superior Court, where the penalties he faces if convicted will be more severe than at the district court level.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.