Former Prince George’s County Police Officer Sentenced In Extortion Conspiracy
Members of the Conspiracy Paid an Undercover Agent $1,770,230 for More Than 17 Million Contraband Cigarettes
Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced former Prince George’s County Police officer Richard Delabrer, age 47, of Laurel, Maryland today to 46 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion under color of official right, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, arising from a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed alcohol and cigarettes. Judge Messitte also entered an order requiring Delabrer to forfeit a house purchased with proceeds from the scheme and to pay restitution of $183,799.
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 Special Agent in Charge Rick A. Raven of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law, it is always disappointing when certain law enforcement officers are the active participants behind fraudulent schemes. Today's sentence demonstrates the collective efforts of state and federal law enforcement agencies to enforce the law and ensure public trust," said Special Agent in Charge Rick Raven of the IRS-Criminal Investigation.
According to Delabrer’s plea agreement, in June 2009, co-defendant Amir Miljkovic, owner of an auto glass store in College Park, Maryland, began discussing with a source and an undercover agent working with the FBI, the transport and sale of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol across state lines. Shortly thereafter, Miljkovic introduced Delabrer to the source and undercover agent as a police officer who could protect the shipments of contraband cigarettes and alcohol.
By July 2009, Delabrer began protecting loads of untaxed alcohol that the source brought from Virginia into Maryland to sell to a retail liquor store in Prince George’s County. Delabrer followed the vehicle transporting the liquor while possessing his police identification and police-issued firearm. Delabrer assured the undercover agent that he would be armed to protect against robberies. Delabrer was observed possessing one or more firearms while dealing with the source and undercover agent. On another occasion, the undercover agent observed two handguns in the trunk of Delabrer’s unmarked police car. Delabrer was paid cash for his protection activities.
Delabrer also sold contraband alcohol to co-defendant Amrik Singh Melhi who had interests in numerous ventures, including liquor stores in Prince George’s County and elsewhere. Delabrer worked part-time for Melhi, providing security at one of the businesses. Delabrer initially served as a go-between, coordinating the sale of contraband liquor from the undercover agent to Melhi. Eventually, Delabrer introduced the undercover agent to Melhi, who began transacting the shipment of illicit goods directly with the undercover agent. During the course of the conspiracy, Delabrer, Melhi and Milijkovic paid the undercover agent $116,505 for the contraband alcohol they purchased.
Shortly after Delabrer began protecting the alcohol shipments, he also began buying contraband cigarettes from the undercover agent and re-selling the illicit goods to others, including former Prince George’s County Police officer Chong Chen Kim and Chun “Eddy” Chen, who owned a carry-out store in Maryland. Delabrer would travel to Virginia to pick up a rented truck that had been loaded with the contraband cigarettes by the undercover agent, and drove the loads to a storage unit in Maryland. Co-defendant Jose Moreno was paid to drive truckloads of contraband cigarettes from Virginia to Maryland, and helped unload and store the contraband at other locations.
The conspirators conducted at least 33 illicit transactions with the undercover agent and the source involving the sale of contraband cigarettes and/or alcohol. Delabrer was involved in each transaction. The first cigarette transaction on July 23, 2009 involved a shipment of 14 master cases, each containing at least 12,000 cigarettes. The largest shipment, on November 6, 2009, involved 160 master cases. Altogether, Delabrer and his conspirators paid the undercover agent $1,770,230 for 1,420 master cases of contraband cigarettes, for a total of more than 17 million contraband cigarettes. The tax loss attributable to Delabrer relating to the illegal cigarette trafficking is $2,820,120: based upon unpaid taxes of $1,704,000 owed to Maryland, $255,600 owed to Virginia, and $860,520 owed to the federal government. The tax loss to Maryland attributable to the shipment and sale of contraband liquor was approximately $15,000.
Amir Miljkovic, age 39, and “Eddy” Chen, age 36, both of Bowie, Maryland; Amrik Singh Melhi, age 52, of Clarksville, Maryland; Chong Chen Kim, age 44, of Odenton, Maryland; and Jose Moreno, age 51, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty to their participation in the extortion conspiracy. Miljkovic was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution and forfeit $230,580, including $183,799 which was seized from his home at his arrest. Chen was sentenced to to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution and forfeit $213,000, including $117,800 which was seized from his home at his arrest. Amrik Melhi was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $975,327.32. His wife Ravinder Kaur Melhi, age 49, pleaded guilty to conspiracy arising from a scheme to illegally access a protected Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration computer for commercial and personal gain. She was sentenced to 18 months probation and ordered to pay a fine of $25,000. Moreno was also sentenced to 18 months probation and Kim’s sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI and IRS for their work in these investigations. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV, A. David Copperthite and Sujit Raman, who prosecuted the cases.
Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. McFeely and Mr. Raven expressed their appreciation to Prince George's County Chief Mark Magaw for the assistance that he and his department provided.