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.”