SALEM, Mass. — The owner of a Merrimack Valley driving school who faces drug trafficking charges is free on $50,000 bail following his arraignment in Salem Superior Court.
The arraignment Wednesday of Michael Larocque, 56, of Lawrence on methamphetamine trafficking and narcotics distribution charges was the latest of his legal woes.
In addition to his criminal case, Larocque, who owns North Andover Driving School and MV Auto School in Haverhill, also faces a civil suit filed by Attorney General Maura Healey. That suit alleges he failed to return $1 million in refunds to 1,500 students.
A preliminary injunction in the civil suit was recently issued, resulting in Larocque’s assets being frozen.
Larocque’s schools had students from across the Merrimack Valley and Greater Newburyport.
“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,” a statement released by the attorney general’s office read.
Following his indictment by an Essex County grand jury, Larocque was arraigned 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.
He was released on $50,000 bail, which he has posted. He was also ordered to remain drug-free and to surrender his passport. His next court date is scheduled for June 4.
If he is convicted, the penalties he faces in superior court are more severe than at the district court level.
In September, investigators said they seized 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 home and the school.
After Larocque’s arrest, the state Registry of Motor Vehicles revoked his driving school’s license, as well as his license to teach driver’s education.
Larocque operated registry-licensed driving schools in North Andover and Haverhill, at North Andover High School and also at Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover, according to Healey.
Healey’s lawsuit, filed in March, seeks refunds and penalties for 1,500 students from the Merrimack Valley and Greater Newburyport after Larocque was arrested 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. A 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.”
Students paid Larocque’s schools between $550 and $750 for driver’s education courses, Healey said.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.