Seventeen Baltimore Police Department officers and two brothers who own a car repair shop have been charged with conspiring to commit extortion.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the charges are in connection with a scheme in which the repair shop owners paid police officers to arrange for their company, rather than a city-authorized company, to tow vehicles from accident scenes and make repairs.
"The criminal complaint alleges that the officers were secretly working for a private auto repair business when they were supposed to be working for the police department and the citizens of Baltimore," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Police officers cross a bright line when they take payments from private citizens in connection with their official duties."
According to an affidavit, the police officers received about $300 for each vehicle they steered to the company, Majestic. During the two-year scheme, officers received payments totaling from $300 to more than $14,400, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.
The company is located in Rosedale and owned by brothers Hernan Alexis Moreno Mejia and Edwin Javier Mejia.
"I will not tolerate any criminal activity that undermines the integrity of the Baltimore Police Department and the many sacrifices our officers make each and every day," said Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld. "And I thank our federal partners for their assistance in this investigation."
Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the extortion conspiracy. Initial appearances for the defendants were scheduled to begin Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said a news conference would be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the charges.
A source told I-Team lead investigative reporter Jayne Miller that the case was initiated within the police department and became a cooperative investigation with the FBI.
Bealefeld and Rosenstein are expected to attend the news conference, along with Richard A. McFeely, FBI special agent in charge.
The following people were charged:
Hernan Alexis Moreno Mejia (Moreno), 30, of Rosedale;
Moreno’s brother, Edwin Javier Mejia, 27, of Middle River;
Eddy Arias, 39, of Catonsville;
Eric Ivan Ayala Olivera, 35, of Edgewood;
Rodney Cintron, 31, of Middle River;
Jhonn S. Corona, 32, of Rosedale;
Michael Lee Cross, 28, of Reisterstown;
Jerry Edward Diggs, Jr., 24, of Baltimore;
Rafael Concepcion Feliciano Jr., 30, of Baltimore;
Jaime Luis Lugo Rivera, 35, of Aberdeen;
Kelvin Quade Manrich, 41, of Gwynn Oak;
Luis Nunez, 33, of Baltimore;
Samuel Ocasio, 35, of Edgewood;
David Reeping, 41, of Baltimore;
Jermaine Rice, 28, of Owings Mills;
Leonel Rodriguez Torres, 31, of Edgewood;
Marcos Fernando Urena, 33, of Baltimore;
Osvaldo Valentine, 38, of Edgewood;
Henry Yambo, 28, of Reisterstown.
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