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