ROWLEY – A local man who told police in March that his sister was infected with the coronavirus to avoid being arrested on a domestic violence-related warrant avoided jail time Wednesday on a charge of spreading false information about COVID-19.

Vincent M. Pugliares, 35, of 385 Wethersfield St., Rowley, was charged in late March with being a fugitive from justice and making a threat that violates state law.

If Pugliares had been found guilty of the new state law, he could have been sentenced to between six months in jail and 20 years in state prison with a fine up to $50,000, according to the state website.

Instead, Judge Peter Doyle generally continued the charge for six months and ordered Pugliares to pay the Rowley Police Department $472 in restitution. The dollar amount reflect how much it cost the department to sanitize part of the station following Pugliares' arrest. 

Out of what was called by Police Chief Scott Dumas an "abundance of caution," a cleaning crew disinfected the cruiser used to drive Pugliares to the police station as well as the Police Department's booking area and sallyport — the area through which prisoners are taken from the cruiser.

No officers involved in the arrest were affected by the virus.

Rowley police Officers Christopher Ottani and Perry Collins went to Pugliares' Wethersfield Street home on March 3 to arrest him on a warrant out of Salem, New Hampshire, involving a domestic assault charge filed there, according to a police report. 

When police arrived at the home, Pugliares surrendered without incident. But on the car ride back to the station, Pugliares told officers his sister, who was living in the same house, had been "quarantined for a couple weeks" due to COVID-19 concerns. 

"I then asked if his sister was confirmed or being tested for COVID-19 to which Pugliares stated 'yes, well, she's being tested and it's in the process of being determined,'" Ottani wrote in his report. 

After placing Pugliares in a holding cell, Ottani disinfected and cleaned the booking area. Once Pugliares realized what the officer was doing, he recanted his story.

"Apparently, Pugliares was concerned since he heard me spraying Lysol spray in the booking room after I placed him into the cell. I was doing so, due to concern of being exposed due to my close contact with Pugliares. I advised Pugliares that I was just taking precautions to protect myself and everyone here from a potential exposure, to which he stated 'I know, but I lied about that,'" Ottani wrote in his report. 

As an added precaution, an Action Ambulance crew came to the station to examine Pugliares. 

"It should be noted that due to Pugliares' earlier comments regarding his sister being quarantined and tested for COVID-19, significant resources were tied up including myself and Officer Collins, two Action EMTs, all of which prevented us from being available for potential calls or other emergencies that may have arisen in town. It also triggered a quarantine of myself and the booking room area, which all had to be cleansed and sanitized by myself and a cruiser was taken out of service as a precaution," Ottani wrote in his report. 

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

Recommended for you