10 Baltimore Police Officers, Auto Repair Shop Owner and Employee Previously Charged in Extortion Scheme Are Indicted
Auto Repair Shop Owner and Employee Allegedly Paid Police Officers to Steer Car Owners Involved in Accidents to the Repair Shop for Towing and Repairs
Baltimore, Maryland - A federal grand jury returned an indictment against 10 Baltimore City Police officers, a car repair shop owner and employee late yesterday for conspiring to commit extortion in connection with a scheme in which the repair shop owner and employee paid police officers to arrange for their company, rather than a city-authorized company, to tow vehicles from accident scenes and make repairs. All of the defendants indicted were previously charged by complaint with the same conspiracy. Seven police officers previously alleged to have participated in the extortion scheme remain charged by the criminal complaint and the investigation continues as to any additional co-conspirators.
The indictment 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.
The indictment charges the following defendants, all of whom are from Maryland:
Hernan Alexis Moreno Mejia (Moreno), age 30, of Rosedale;
Moreno’s brother, Edwin Javier Mejia, age 27, of Middle River;
Eddy Arias, age 39, of Catonsville;
Rodney Cintron, age 31, of Middle River;
Jhonn S. Corona, age 32, of Rosedale;
Michael Lee Cross, age 28, of Reisterstown;
Jerry Edward Diggs, Jr., age 24, of Baltimore;
Rafael Concepcion Feliciano Jr., age 30, of Baltimore;
Samuel Ocasio, age 35, of Edgewood;
Leonel Rodriguez Torres, age 31, of Edgewood;
Marcos Fernando Urena, age 33, of Baltimore; and
Henry Yambo, age 28, of Reisterstown.
The Baltimore Police Department requires that when police request vehicle towing services, they only use towing companies that are under contract with the City of Baltimore to provide towing services for the BPD.
Defendant Hernan Moreno owns Majestic Auto Repair Shop LLC (Majestic) located in Rosedale, Maryland. His brother Edwin Mejia is employed with Majestic. Majestic provides towing and automobile repair services. Majestic is not an authorized tow company with the City of Baltimore. The remaining defendants are Baltimore Police Officers (BPD Officers).
According to the indictment, from Spring of 2008 to at least February 2011, Moreno and Mejia paid the BPD Officers to arrange for Majestic or a company used by Majestic, rather than an authorized tow company with the city, to tow or otherwise obtain vehicles from accident scenes. The extortion scheme alleged in the indictment is similar to the scheme previously alleged in the affidavit supporting the complaint. That is, 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. The BPD Officer would then allegedly inform the vehicle owner that Majestic could tow the car, provide auto repair services, help with the insurance claim, assist in getting a rental car and waive the deductible. The BPD Officer allegedly would further direct the owner not to call the insurance company until after speaking with Moreno.
The indictment further alleges that a Majestic truck, or a truck from another towing company used by Majestic, would then arrive at the scene and tow the vehicle to Majestic, even if the vehicle was not actually disabled.
In some instances, the vehicle was driven to Majestic by Moreno or the owner. The indictment alleges that the BPD Officer would falsely state in his police report, if one was prepared, that the vehicle owners arranged for their own tow, or the BPD Officer would intentionally leave the box blank in the report as to towing or vehicle removal method. If the car stayed at Majestic, a claim was then submitted to the insurance company for payment for the towing and repairs allegedly made by Majestic to the towed vehicle. Moreno or Mejia and the BPD Officer would later arrange to meet so that Moreno or Mejia could pay the BPD Officer in cash or check for steering the car owner to use Majestic.
Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the extortion conspiracy. No court appearances are scheduled at this time.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
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 Kelly Kowitz, who are prosecuting the case.