Baltimore Police Officer Convicted in Towing Extortion Scheme
Co-Defendant Police Officer Pleads Guilty During Trial
Baltimore, Maryland - A federal jury convicted Baltimore Police officer Samuel Ocasio, age 36, of Edgewood, Maryland today of conspiring to commit and committing extortion under color of official right in connection with a scheme in which brothers Hernan Alexis Moreno and Edwin Javier Mejia paid Ocasio and over 50 other officers to arrange for their car repair company, Majestic, rather than a city-authorized company, to tow vehicles from accident scenes and make repairs.
Co-defendant Baltimore Police officer Kelvin Quade Manrich, age 42, of Middle River, Maryland pleaded guilty today to the conspiracy and extortion after five days of trial.
The conviction and guilty plea were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.
“Working as a law enforcement officer is a commitment and not just a job, which is why it requires a sworn oath,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “A police officer who takes a payment from a private citizen in connection with public duties crosses a bright line from which there is no return.”
According to testimony during the six day trial and facts stated in the superseding indictment to which Manrich pleaded guilty, beginning in the spring 2008, Moreno and Mejia agreed with Ocasio and Manrich that while acting in their capacity as Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers at accident scenes, Ocasio and Manrich would contact Moreno and Mejia for towing and repair services for vehicles even though Majestic was not an authorized tow company for the City of Baltimore. In exchange, Mejia or Moreno would pay Ocasio and Manrich $300 for each vehicle that arrived at Majestic. Ocasio and Manrich then began to refer vehicles on a regular basis to Moreno in exchange for payment, usually by contacting Moreno by cell phone.
Specifically, while on the scene of an accident, Ocasio and Manrich would contact Moreno and provide him with the details of the accident, including the type and extent of damage to the car or cars, insurance information and contact information for the car’s owner. It was agreed that Ocasio and Manrich, while performing their official duties as a police officer, would persuade accident victims to allow their cars to be towed or otherwise delivered to Majestic by telling the victims that Majestic could tow the car, provide repair services, help with the insurance claim, assist in getting a rental car and waive the owner’s deductible. In some cases the accident victims’ cars were towed even if the vehicle was not actually disabled. Moreno or Mejia, and Ocasio and Manrich, later arranged to meet so that Moreno or Mejia could pay Ocasio and Manrich in cash for steering the car owner to use Majestic for tow and auto repair services.
Ocasio and Manrich face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy, and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,0000 or twice the amount of the gross gain or loss for extortion. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for Ocasio on June 1, 2012 at 10:15 a.m. and Manrich on May 25, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Hernan Alexis Moreno, age 31, of Rosedale, and Edwin Javier Mejia, age 28, of Middle River, previously pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy and face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
To date, 14 Baltimore Police officers have pleaded guilty to their participation in the extortion scheme in federal court and one officer pleaded guilty in state court.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI and the Baltimore Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and Tonya N. Kelly, who are prosecuting the case.