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17 Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Extortion Conspiracy with Repair Shop

U.S. Attorney alleges officers were paid to have vehicles towed to a specific repair shop.

Maryland's federal prosecutor today charged 17 Baltimore City police officers with steering auto repair and towing jobs to a Rosedale company in exchange for cash-- an extortion scheme that has been going on for more than two years.  

The Maryland U.S. Attorney’s office alleges the owners of the shop—brothers Herman Alexis Moreno Mejia and Edwin Javier Mejia—paid police to arrange for their company to tow and repair vehicles from accident scenes.

The Baltimore City Police Department requires vehicles towed from an accident scene to be taken by companies under contract with the city. The Mejias brothers’ shop, Majestic Auto Repair Shop LLC of Rosedale, does not have a city contract.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein's office alleges that officers falsified police reports to show that vehicle owners, not officers, arranged for Majestic to pick up damaged vehicles. The Mejias brothers would pay police officers cash or check "for steering the car owner to use Majestic for tow and automobile repair services," according to a press release.

Since January 2009, officers received payments totaling between $300 and $14,400.

"Police officers are supposed to be working for the police department, not the highest bidder," Rosenstein said. "Officers cross a bright line when they take payments from private citizens in connection with their official duties." 

The individuals charged in the case are:

  •         Hernan Alexis Moreno Mejia (Moreno), age 30, of Rosedale;
  •         Moreno’s brother, Edwin Javier Mejia, age 27, of Middle River;
  •         Eddy Arias, age 39, of Catonsville;
  •         Eric Ivan Ayala Olivera, age 35, of Edgewood;
  •         Rodney Cintron, age 31, of Middle River;
  •         Jhonn S. Corona, age 32, of Rosedale;
  •         Michael Lee Cross, age 28, of Reisterstown;
  •         Jerry Edward Diggs, Jr., age 24, of Baltimore;
  •         Rafael Concepcion Feliciano Jr., age 30, of Baltimore;
  •         Jaime Luis Lugo Rivera, age 35, of Aberdeen;
  •         Kelvin Quade Manrich, age 41, of Gwynn Oak;
  •         Luis Nunez, age 33, of Baltimore;
  •         Samuel Ocasio, age 35, of Edgewood;
  •         David Reeping, age 41, of Baltimore;
  •         Jermaine Rice, age 28, of Owings Mills;
  •         Leonel Rodriguez Torres, age 31, of Edgewood;
  •         Marcos Fernando Urena, age 33, of Baltimore;
  •         Osvaldo Valentine, age 38, of Edgewood; and
  •         Henry Yambo, age 28, of Reisterstown.

Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the extortion conspiracy, according to a press release.

During the press conference announcing the arrest Tuesday, Baltimore City Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said he doesn't view the arrests as a black eye for the department, but instead proof of its determination to ferret out corruption in its ranks. 

“I am privileged, and it is my distinct honor to represent 2,800 of the most selfless, dedicated men and women in the country, in the field of law enforcement," Bealefeld said. "But we just can’t give quarter to corruption. We can’t and won’t, and we will exhaust every means and every resource to eliminating it from our ranks.”

John February 24, 2011 at 12:57 AM
WOW, 20 years jail time for $300 in payoffs. Who says Baltimore City doesn't have the brightest cops in the country? It's a shame that these few give a black eye to the entire Baltimore City Police Department. I hope all 19 of them, including the shop owners, get the entire 20 year sentence. Them maybe, just maybe, others will think "The quick buck may not really be worth it." But I'm sure there will be many deals that include no jail time because, God bless America, that's how the system works.
Ijitihad February 24, 2011 at 11:25 AM
Twenty years seems harsh--That's one year for every $15 stolen. It reeks of Les Miserables justice.
outsider observer February 24, 2011 at 01:47 PM
When is Maryland's federal prosecutor going to start looking into the bigger corruption in Baltimore? The schemes where city official seize desirable commercial property and hand it off to politically-connected cronies, for example? That corruption runs into the millions. This is peanuts in comparison. Although I do have to commend the federal prosecutor for uncovering this extortion scheme. You do not want government officials using their positions to make illegal cash for themselves or their friends at the expense of the citizens, and that's the principle that was violated here. It's being violated in a much bigger way downtown.
wwjd February 24, 2011 at 02:15 PM
20 years is harsh considering child molesters might spend 3 months in jail for their crime(s). By the way, how does a towing company get a contract with the City police department? Is it an open process or subject to political connections?
mytakeonit February 24, 2011 at 02:17 PM
it's sad everyone wants to bash the police for picking up some extra cash. but whats even more sad is the money($250.00 a month) they r taking away from the officers to help with the city budget which out of control, and the big shots won't come out of their pockets like they r making the officers do. When r the city officals going to stop taking all the heat off their butts and putting it on the men & women who r underpaid to put their life on the line to protect us? I am not saying these officers were right but I cant say they r wrong either. all i can say is Thank You to the men and women who put their life on the line to protect my children and I.
Buzz Beeler February 24, 2011 at 02:53 PM
my you might want to change you comment after you read this. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-medallion-tower-arrest-20110223,0,6660277.story
Buzz Beeler February 24, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Politics, politics, politics! Corruption, corruption, corruption! http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-towing-history-20110223,0,3842640.story
Robert Armstrong February 24, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Extortion isn't wrong?? It's a crime for Chrissakes
outsider observer February 24, 2011 at 03:44 PM
It's upsetting to see that whenever someone in Baltimore is accused of corruption (this incident, the Sheila Dixon trial, etc.) an amazingly high number of people show up to comment that this sort of thing is OK and to defend the criminals. It's not OK. It's a violation of public trust. The reason Baltimore has such a pervasive culture of corruption is in part because the public accepts it. I can guarantee you that if you were a person whose car was taken to an unauthorized facility, and then you were overcharged, perhaps by hundreds of dollars so that some cop could get his kickback, it wouldn't be OK with you.
Buzz Beeler February 24, 2011 at 04:07 PM
I talked to a former commander who told me the problem began when the department attempted to recruit more Spanish speaking officers and background checks became lax. Hiring standards were changed. Even putting aside the ethnic issue, the political one raised its ugly head in Baltimore County and background checks were overlooked depending on the political connection. That's the price you pay, when you look the other way regardless of the issue, which in this case seems to be evident. This theme was a topic of conversation on The Sun Board. That is why the judge ordered those officers arrested to surrender their passports.
Robert Armstrong February 24, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Bullio Crapio Puerto Rico isn't a foreign country. If you had actually read the Sun's article you would know that the problem with towing companies has been going on since the '50's. It has nothing to do with Spanish speaking officers. They went through the same process as everyone else who is currently a BPD officer. Besides, not all the officers charged are Latino. Is it always about race with you, Archie Bunker?
David February 24, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Henry Yambo has a facebook page and is friends with that other criminal Edwin Javier Mejia. hhaha idiots
David February 24, 2011 at 05:53 PM
People are idiots....its not 1 year for every $15 bucks, theywere getting $300 each time. They all prob made $5,000 plus. They are a bad department yet they recruit the worst candidates because of racial quota's. Its starts with the recruiting and they should choose the best qualified as opposed to hiring 2nd chance type of people. I hope those criminals go to jail for 20
RONALD FINN February 24, 2011 at 08:18 PM
GEE, THEY FINALLY GOT A PROSECUTER WITH GONADS, ITS BEEEN FAR TOO LONG WITH THIS TYPE OF CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR. WHY DONT THE CITY GIVE THE TOWING CONTRACT TO AAA, THEN AT LEAST SOME FOLKS WOULD HAVE A CHOICE. IMAGINE THAT, THE CITY THAT READS-CHARM CITY BACK IN THE SPOT LIGHT.
Robert Armstrong February 25, 2011 at 03:37 AM
The Feds made the bust. Which Federal prosecutor has changed?
Kate February 25, 2011 at 11:51 AM
People aren't bashing these police for wanting to pick up extra cash - they are bashing them because THEY BROKE THE LAW!!!! Why do you want to hold cops to a different standard than the rest of us citizens???!!! I imagine your average drug dealer or bank robber is also looking to pick up some extra cash. Do you support their actions as well??? As far as these cops protecting citizens, I question the motivations of any cop willing to break the law....do they EVER really have my best interest at heart - your argument is absurd and I for one hope that the good cops who work hard every day for us tax-paying citizens are the ones most disturbed by this whole disgusting fiasco.
Negro February 25, 2011 at 02:41 PM
So I'm not from Baltimore but I work in the area and I seen Tow trucks charge drivers from $150.00 to $300.00 just because they hook you car, you must paid cash or pick up you car the towing company and that can be more than a few hundreds , but I don't see anyone fixing or investigating those " contract tow companies" they abuse their power and take advantage of the system!!!!
Buzz Beeler February 25, 2011 at 03:18 PM
You can call the Traffic Management Towing Unit of the Baltimore County Police Department and file a complaint. I use to work in that office and they will investigate it. There are strict guidelines for licensed tow companies in the county. For those people who deal with unlicensed tow companies, there is the better business bureau. I used them one time on behalf of my mother and the results were great. The big picture is that you have to navigate the system.
nathanljefferson February 25, 2011 at 04:57 PM
the law is the law peace officers which include police have an oath to abide by and that oath is the law i dont feel they should get any jail time but they should lose there jobs because just like drug addicts this start smaller and move up to bigger things.
Buzz Beeler February 25, 2011 at 06:40 PM
I strongly disagree. If found guilty, they dishonored themselves, their badge, oath, community, and fellow officers who put their lives on the line every day. Jail time is appropriate. Its called accountability. The impact of this scandal is devastating to any law enforcement agency. Its no different than the military. They deserted their fellow officers in the one thing that is most needed and that is trust. Without accountability, the smaller to bigger things you speak of will be a short step.
James Smith February 25, 2011 at 07:09 PM
What they did is wrong. Plain and simple. But if we put them all in jail, we will have to let other criminals out of jail to make room. See the following story: http://parkville.patch.com/articles/man-held-in-parkville-killing-was-out-early-on-03-murder-conviction This guy did 7 years for a 2nd Degree murder, got an early release, and then killed again within a year. Killers don't do 20 years in jail, so dirty cops taking kick backs should not either. What they did was wrong, and an embarrassment to the City Police. They city will be a better place with out them on the force.
Buzz Beeler February 25, 2011 at 07:30 PM
James, the second part of your comment is disgraceful act perpetrated on us by the criminal justice system, however two wrongs don't make it right. You are alluding to exactly what I am referring to. Did you read the account of the woman who was arrested because she protested one of the accused cops actions? Without accountability, you create a slippery slope all the way down and that is not the place we should be headed. Based on what you are advocating the implications could be far-reaching. Its the governments job to protect the citizens and see that justice prevails. This is a major scandal and should not be handled lightly.
Sherri Hodges February 26, 2011 at 03:45 PM
This is the same Federal prosecutor that won't prosecute corruption at the NSA, and won't investigate the criminal histories of senior NSA officers. What happened? Did his wife get a flat tire, and got ripped off on the tow? This guy is a crackerjack prosecutor. Be sure you all license your dogs, or Rod and his crackerjack team will run you up on charges.
Buzz Beeler March 24, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Nick, liberals always function on emotion and never the facts. In this case the facts are important. Its called breaking the law. Do the crime, do the time.
Robert Armstrong March 24, 2011 at 03:35 AM
"Nick, liberals always function on emotion and never the facts." Buzz, you are full of crap as usual
Buzz Beeler March 24, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Judging by the number of negative remarks you have received from members of this site, I would say people of your ilk are the reason for the much of the friction regarding this issue. Your are rude and condescending when engaging in numerous topics on this site. You just don't get it when people take you to task over your wise-guy attitude. That is why there will always be departments like ICE. http://www.ydr.com/ci_17673988?source=email This is why this country has laws, something that seems to escape you reasoning. You alluded that I would cut ESOL, as if the taxpayers should have to pay for teaching illegals the language, just like they are demanding we pay for their education. You will not accept anything as fact if it does not agree with your agenda. You did this in the FOX News story on the Hispanic Marine, who was a U.S. citizen and not an illegal. Now all of a sudden FOX has creditability. Do you know that according to some within the intelligence community that Mexico and the drug violence is now considered to be a bigger threat than Al Qaeda. I wonder what you have done in the service of your country? I would also assume that the laws are there for a good reason, one of which is to stop the likes of people who lack proper etiquette and manors in addressing others on this site.
Robert Armstrong March 24, 2011 at 08:17 PM
...and your pompous Buzz. You just make stuff up and think people are going to hang over every one of your words like it is the Gospel or something. "Some within the Intelligence Community......."??? Why don't you back that up with a link or 2?? Or was that a fabrication?
Buzz Beeler March 25, 2011 at 07:27 PM
I hope that this link meets your criteria of creditability, but then, had you taken the time to do the research, you would have known that what I said was based on facts. In the context of robust political discourse, rather than engage me on a personal level, you should be researching my statement based on its validity. http://homelandsecuritynewswire.com/us-mexicos-drug-war-posing-growing-threat-us-national-security Besides this link, I have viewed numerous documentaries such as "Border Wars," and the History Channels ongoing look at gang activity in the U.S. Based on the proximity of Mexico to the U.S. border, the number of drug cartel related deaths which have surpassed 30,000 and the number of cartel and gang activity in this country, the threat is real. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-02-02/news/bs-md-drug-cartel-20110202_1_mexican-cartel-gulf-cartel-informant That is, I believe two links, as per your request. Oh by the way, this "stuff," is not made up, or "fabrication," as per your claim! Do your homework before you comment.
Robert Armstrong March 26, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Thats just "Chicken Little crap to scare the Sheeple. Here, this is from your much vaunted Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/07/threat-border-violence-arizona-appears-overstated-analysts-say/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnews%2Fpolitics+%28Internal+-+Politics+-+Text%29
Buzz Beeler March 26, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Who are the sheep you are referring to? Are they U.S. citizens and taxpayers. You refer to us as sheep? Your attitude is reflected in this link. http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/region_phoenix_metro/central_phoenix/letter-written-by-a-valley-teacher-is-stirring-a-heated-debate-about-racism-and-immigration You seem to want all of the entitlements and yet when I asked you what have you done for your country, you remain silent. You have never responded to any question. Are you not willing to educate the readers with your contribution because of your agenda. "We have had a significant reduction over 100,000 illegal aliens that have left this state," said Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce. "We've had a corresponding relationship with the reduction in violent crimes." One of the quotes from your link. http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052748703395204576023811983098994-lMyQjAxMTAwMDEwNjExNDYyWj.html Mexico is one of the richest nations in the world in natural resources and yet one of the most corrupt. How does Castro stay in power for so long? Why is California in such dire straights now? LA County is the gang capital of the U.S. Why is Hugo Chavez allowed to rule as a dictator? Do you remember Pablo Escobar? Are you suggesting open borders to anyone? Are you suggesting that U.S. law has no baring? Tell us just how much is this issues costing us?

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