Baltimore Police Officer Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison In Majestic Towing Company Extortion Scheme

Tenth Baltimore Police Officer to be Sentenced; Filed False Insurance Claim Stating That His Personal Car Had Been Stolen

May 11, 2012

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Baltimore Police officer Leonel Rodriguez, age 32, of Essex, Maryland, today to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit, and committing, extortion under color of official right in connection with a scheme in which brothers Hernan Moreno and Edwin Mejia paid Rodriguez and 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. Judge Blake also entered an order that Rodriguez pay restitution of $16,215 to his insurance company, and $10,000 to the Baltimore Police Department.

The sentence was 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.

According to his plea agreement, Rodriguez agreed with Moreno and Mejia that while acting as a Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officer at accident scenes, Rodriguez would contact Moreno and Majestic for towing and repair services for vehicles even though Majestic was not an authorized tow company for the City of Baltimore. While on the scene of an accident, Rodriguez would call Moreno or Mejia and provide details of the accident, including the type of car and extent of damage. Moreno or Mejia would come to the accident scene and arrange for the car to be driven or towed to Majestic. Mejia or Moreno would pay Rodriguez up to $300 for each vehicle that arrived at Majestic.

Between January and August 2010, Moreno paid Rodiguez in checks totaling $8,450. After August 2010, Moreno paid Rodriguez in cash.

Rodriguez recruited other BPD officers to participate in the scheme.

Rodriguez also agreed that Moreno and Mejia would create additional damage to other vehicles in order to increase the vehicle insurance claims, thereby increasing the net profit for Majestic as well as covering both the cash bribe payment to Rodriguez, and the payment of the vehicle owner’s deductible. Rodriguez referred vehicles to Majestic that had pre-existing damage, falsifying police reports to indicate that the damage had just occurred.

In addition, Rodriguez wanted to get rid of his personal car so that he would no longer have to make car payments. He gave his car to a mechanic who worked for Moreno to sell to a “chop shop” and falsely claimed to his insurance company that the car had been stolen.

The total loss caused by Rodriguez’s conduct is at least $120,000.

Nine other Baltimore Police officers have been sentenced to date, to eight to 30 months in prison: Osvaldo Valentine, age 40, of Edgewood; Jhonn Corona, age 33, of Rosedale, and Jerry Diggs, Jr., age 25, of Baltimore, all to 30 months in prison; Rafael Concepcion Feliciano, Jr., age 31, of Baltimore, to two years in prison; Henry Yambo, age 29, of Owings Mills, to 15 months in prison; Michael Cross, age 29, of Reisterstown, to 10 months in prison; and Eddie Arias, age 40, of Catonsville, David Reeping, age 42, of Arbutus, and Jermaine Rice, age 29, of Woodstock, all to eight months in prison.

Hernan Alexis Moreno, age 31, of Rosedale, Maryland and Edwin Javier Mejia, age 28, of Middle River, Maryland pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison at their sentencing, which has not been scheduled. Fourteen police officers have pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy in federal court and one officer pleaded guilty in state court. One officer was convicted by a federal jury after a six day trial.

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 Tonya N. Kelly and Kathleen O. Gavin, who are prosecuting the case.

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