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February 23, 2011

Baltimore officers arrested in corruption probe

UPDATE: Federal authorities say that the case involves 17 city police officers. We're posting the criminal complaint below. Here are some quick highlights from a statement from the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office:

A criminal complaint was filed today charging 17 Baltimore City Police officers and two brothers who own a car repair shop with conspiring to commit extortion in connection with a scheme in which the repair shop owners paid police officers to arrange for their company, rather than a city-authorized company, to tow vehicles from accident scenes and make repairs.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the general pattern of the extortion scheme allegedly consisted of the following: from January 2009 to the present, the BPD Officers were either dispatched by the police department to the scene of an accident, or otherwise showed up at the scene.  Shortly after arriving at the accident scene, the BPD Officer would call Moreno, or use the vehicle owner’s cell phone to call Moreno, and provide Moreno with details about the accident and the damage to the vehicle.

Original post: A dozen or more Baltimore city police officers have been arrested this morning in connection with a federal corruption probe that involves an improper relationship with a Baltimore towing company, sources said.

Baltimore Police initiated the investigation and brought in the FBI to avoid a conflict of interest, officials said. The officers were arrested today at the police academy after being called in under the guise that their firearms needed to be checked.

Multiple sources say the officers are mostly from the Northeast District and many of them are officers who were recruited years ago in a push to bring in Latino officers from Puerto Rico. That information could not immediately be confirmed.

UPDATE at 3:25 p.m.The president of Latino officers association says only 3 of officers charged were recruited during the Puerto Rico initiative. Others were recruited from New York and Maryland, and are of varying nationalities, the association says.

A network of about a dozen towing companies, referred to as the “medallion towers,” have contracts with the city, some stretching back as many as three decades, to tow cars involved in accidents or illegally parked on public right-of-ways.  

The city transportation department rejected a bid last week to contract with California-based Auto Return to manage the city’s tow lots, effectively ensuring a continuation of the medallion system.  Auto Return, which handles towing in Baltimore County, would have required tow companies to reapply for subcontracts.

A two-year extension of the medallion contracts, which requires approval by Bealefeld and transportation director Khalil Zaied, had been slated to go before the city spending board today.  The deal is expected to go before the five-member Board of Estimates next week.

Officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore and the FBI announced that a press conference will be held at 3 p.m. today to discuss the arrests.

-Justin Fenton and Julie Scharper

Comments

Hmmm! Ain't that something. In a city with 9% unemployment, people still find a way to make more based off what they thought was power. Greed is something else.

Wonderful.

The police union will actually defend these scumbags.

I wonder how many will be fired.

Boy I'm so glad I retired in May, I'm so ashamed to have even been a part of the organization, when I see all the negative stuff going on there. I can't help but feel that due to the consistently high attrition rate the place will always be sub standard. With the economy and all I understand money is a non issue but the working conditions have always been deplorable. I honestly feel so sorry for the citizens, they deserve so much better, COME ON LADIES AND GENTLEMAN OF THE AGENCY, HAVE SOME PRIDE!

Baltimore is ghetto.

the whole city is corrupt, everyone in charge trying to get theirs , but the officals keep saying the same old same old of how they are making things better,but there is a bright side to this ,there are now serveral position open in the police dept that need to be filled now.

Well come to Mexico....:-) we deal with that every day.. here..
At least someone got arrested.

What about your wall street, that reminds me of my home town, big guys get the taxes little guy's pay them,,, Big news is a few cops..
1,000,000,000 is a lot of BMW's LOL
Juan

The Baltimore City Police are corrupt? Aw, shucks, say it ain't so, Pete.

Wait, so the organized crime ring that is city towing somehow got law enforcement in on the scheme?????? No way!!!!!!

Justin- did you're sources say that the offices were Puerto Rican or just part of a recruiting class that happened to have a lot of PR's?

I understand they are mostly from the Northeast district but what does the nationality of an entire recruiting class have to do with this specific incident?

There was a well-publicized effort to recruit more Latino officers a few years ago that involved recruiting from Puerto Rico. Our reporter at the time, Gus Sentementes, traveled down there to cover it. I'm told from multiple sources that these officers had been brought here during that effort, but there's a lot up in the air right now about this case. -JF

I wish we had a Peter Hermann and a Justin Fenton in Chicago. The reporters here want the wistlle blower to do the dangerous investigating and then they want to take all the credit.

The article states: "Multiple sources say the officers ... are officers who were recruited years ago in a push to bring in Latino officers from Puerto Rico." What kind of racist nonsense is that? If you don't know who and how many are Puerto Rican and you can't say who made the claim, it's irresponsible to speculate when making corruption allegations.

Again, it's not about their race. It's that they were recruited in a high profile initiative. I've obviously failed to articulate that as the reason for including it.

baiting as usual.. Justin Fenton is the WORST reporter who has ever wrote a story for the sun.. He's STRICTLY into RACE BAITING.. were ALL the officiers PR?? if not.. What's the point of stating why they were hired??? Just Baiting...

..and people thought Sheila Dixon was the root of Baltimore's problems. What she did was minor compared to some of the other corruption that goes on in our city, and at least she greeted people with a smile. Our current mayor must be afraid of getting lock jaw if she tries to smile. Also, I think Justin is a great reporter.

So, are we all happy now that we can read the list? It appears to be thirteen Latino names among the defendants. Given that we also had sources describing many of them as part of the recruiting class from Puerto Rico... are we alright? Can we calm down?

Sadly more fuel for justifiable outrage,hardened cynicism and bitter mistrust for a police department still reeling/recovering from major internal chaos, let alone credibility damage from events like as this.It's a tragedy for our citizens,the once prospering city of Baltimore,and the remaining"good guys" in the department who do put their lives on the line every day.

If the officers were all hired at the same time, from the same country ,during the same incentive and for the same reason than, yes, that would be an important point to bring forth. It's called reporting.

To the contrary MBrown. I am not ashamed to have retired after 25 years serving the citizens of Baltimore and working with (and supervising) some of the finest law enforcement officers that ever wore the uniform. The majority of our members work with quiet dignity and serve with honor and distinction. Those members rarely make the news. It is important that Justin bring these issue to the fore. Most posters seem to conveniently forget that the BPD Internal Affairs conducted the preliminary investigation and notified the Feds. We are actively seeking out corruption and policing our own.

Peter -- I do remember the high-profile initiative to recruit police officers in Puerto Rico, and your statement of the fact was perfectly clear to me.

don't stop there what about the hit squds?

Its not just Baltimore. This is going on all over the country. The people in power are corrupt.

It doesn't matter who gets the contract, IT'S ALL A RACKET ANYWAY!! MOB CONNECTED.. Everybody's crooked!!

It's like, how you tow my car and the bill is over $200!! I can see charging someone $50, but over $200, c'mon!! Everybody is crooked, I don't care where you are!

I live in the county and was at home on a weekday because I work from home, and found a guy with a pit bull on a leash walking through my fenced in, no trespassing marked back yard, scoping out the back of my secluded house at 10:00am on a monday. I was aghast at this guy who had obviously ignored the NO TRESPASSING SIGN and gone through a hole in the fence with his pit bull in the middle of the day. When I called the police and went with the Baltimore County cop to apprehend this guy , he turns out to be an off duty Baltimore City cop. I obviously dropped the trespassing charges but still wonder what the heck was a City cop doing in my back yard in the county scoping out the back of my house. It is in the middle of nowhere so obviously he didn't accidently find me.

Dress this one up Freddy Believofield!!! An external audit of all facets is needed here. Too lax for too long and it's getting worse.

This will be dismissed in court due to the fact they were profiled because of their skin color. It's the first time 19 spanish people were arrested and not one of them were here illegally. I'm all for immigration as long as it's legal. Illegals have more privileges in this country than we do. Too much of our tax $$ goes to illegal immigrants.

Well this is a start, Majestic is not the only tower on the east side abusing people when their most vulnerable. i.e after an accident. And these officer's are not the only BCP doing it either. This is a city wide problem, ask any medallion tower and I bet they could name several companies doing the same thing in their area. As I said in the beginning this is a start, let's see if they finish and get all the police scanners out of tower's shops and trucks, as well as tower's numbers out of BCP officers personal cell phones

bvb

a baltimore county police officer grabbed my 15 year old brother by the neck and pushed him against a wall for being "disrespectful" because he didn't answer his questions. he wasnt charged with any crimes. he then verbally harrased me. my parents say but are too scared to do anything cus were iranian and the police are much worse there.

The important thing is that the had a mass exodus of honest,qualified police who were fed up. They would make good arrest and Jessamy and the court system would let them out before the paper work was done. That why the City had to pay police 8% on a sizable amount of money (the drop progam) trying to entice veteran officers to remain on the force. Nothing improved they took their money and left. The BPD couldn't hire qualified people so they had to lower their testing standards and bring in officers from other countries who acted worse than some of the criminals they are supposed to hunt down. Many of them were put on the street and couldn't hardly speak English or write a decent police report. My husband too, was no longer proud to wear that badge and was ashamed how the agency was viewed by the citizens of the City.

I had an accident in BaltimoreCounty 8/28/11. Car was totaled. The police officer tole me that in This county when you have an accident you cannot call AAA;. they must send your car to where they want it to go. The same corruption is going on in Baltimore County

It's about time jusyice is reaching everyone. It's good to see officers being truly disciplined for their actions; its good for the community when somthing like this happens because it makes he rest of those cowboys calm down i think.

Welcome aboard BPD! In the auto insurance industry, we've been sailing on this misery-cruise, dealing with this illegal crap for years! You ought to have a look at QRT (among others)...I wonder if they still have those police scanners they use to steal tows from the Medallion towers.

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.



Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.
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