Two More Baltimore Police Officers Plead Guilty In Majestic Towing Company Extortion Scheme
Eleven Baltimore Police Officers Have Pleaded Guilty to the Extortion Conspiracy;
Officers Filed False Insurance Claims to Pay for Repairs to Their Personal Cars
Baltimore, Maryland - Baltimore Police officer Leonel Rodriguez, age 31, of Essex, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit, and committing, extortion under color of official right in connection with a scheme in which brothers Hernan Alexis Moreno, age 30, of Rosedale, and Edwin Javier Mejia, age 27, of Middle River, paid the defendants 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. Baltimore Police officer Rodney Cintron, age 32, of Middle River, Maryland pleaded guilty to the same charges on November 15, 2011.
The guilty pleas 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.
According to their plea agreements, Cintron and Rodriguez agreed with Moreno and Mejia that while acting as Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers at accident scenes, Cintron and 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, Cintron and 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 Cintron and Rodriguez up to $300 for each vehicle that arrived at Majestic.
From January to August, 2009, Moreno paid Cintron in checks totaling over $13,000 for vehicles that he had referred to Majestic. From mid - 2008 to June 2010, Moreno also paid Cintron in cash and by check to Cintron’s wife. Between January and August 2010, Moreno paid Rodiguez in checks totaling $8,450. After August 2010, Moreno paid Rodriguez in cash.
Cintron and Rodriguez also recruited other BPD officers to participate in the scheme. Cintron and Rodriguez 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 Cintron and Rodriguez, and the payment of the vehicle owner’s deductible. Cintron falsified police reports indicating that some vehicles had more damage than they actually had. 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.
Additionally, on June 11, 2009, Cintron made a false claim to his insurance company, claiming that his personal car had been vandalized when he was on vacation, resulting in damage to the sides and hood of the car. In reality, Cintron’s car was scratched on one side prior to the vacation, and had damage to the other side from running into an object. Cintron wanted to have his entire car repainted. Moreno agreed to add additional damage to the car to support Cintron’s vandalism claim. Cintron’s insurance company paid Cintron $4,346.06 for the repairs. Thereafter, on February 17, 2010, Cintron called his insurance company again claiming that he had damaged his car while driving in the middle lane of Pulaski Highway in Baltimore City, and that a car next to him lost control and hit his car, causing him to hit a gate. Cintron also claimed that another police officer responded to the incident. In reality, Cintron’s wife damaged the car while pulling out of their garage. The insurance company paid Majestic $5,121.85 to repair the car and $250 to Cintron directly.
The total loss caused by Cintron’s and Rodriguez’s conduct is at least $120,000. The exact amount of loss will be determined at sentencing.
Both defendants 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 derived from or caused by the offense, for extortion under color of official right. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake scheduled sentencing for Rodriguez on April 27, 2012, at 9:15 a.m. and for Cintron on February 24, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.
Moreno and Mejia pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison at their sentencing, which has not been scheduled. A total of eleven police officers have pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy to date. Trial of the remaining three defendant police officers is scheduled for February 13, 2012.
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.