The owners of a local car repair company have been sentenced in a scheme in which prosecutors say the two brothers paid police officers to turn a blind eye.
U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced 23-year-old Hernan Alexis Moreno of Rosedale to 33 months in prison and his brother, 29-year-old Edwin Javier Mejia of Middle River to two years in prison.
The convictions -- conspiring to commit extortion in connection with a scheme in which they paid more than 50 police officers to arrange for their car repair company, Majestic, rather than a city-authorized company, to tow vehicles from accident scenes and make repairs. The judge also ordered the brothers to pay restitution of $129,249.70 to various insurance companies.
According to their plea agreements, beginning in 2008 the brothers agreed to pay Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers Jhonn Corona and Rodney Cintron to contact them from accident and hit-and-run scenes for towing and repair services instead of contacting a city-authorized tow company. In exchange, Mejia or Moreno would pay the officers $150 to $300 for each vehicle that arrived at Majestic. Prosecutors say the two officers then began to recruit other BPD officers to participate in the scheme.
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, "We hope this case sent a clear message that police officers cannot take payments from private citizens in connection with their official duties."
According to court documents, by February 23, 2011, more than 50 BPD officers had joined in the scheme.
Investigators say BPD officers would call Moreno on his cell phone and provide him with the details of the accident. BPD would then reportedly persuade accident victims to allow their cars to be towed or otherwise delivered to Majestic by telling the victims that Majestic could tow the car, provide repair services, help with the insurance claim, assist in getting a rental car and waive the owner's deductible.
Fifteen officers have been sentenced, receiving between eight and 42 months in prison. Corona received 30 months in prison and Cintron received 42 months.
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