From the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland:
Baltimore, Maryland – Baltimore Police officers Jerry Diggs, Jr., age 25, of Baltimore, and Osvaldo Valentine, age 39, Edgewood, 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.
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, Diggs and Valentine agreed with Moreno and Mejia that while acting in their capacity as Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers at accident scenes, Diggs and Valentine 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. In exchange, Mejia or Moreno would pay Diggs and Valentine up to $300 for each vehicle that arrived at Majestic. Diggs and Valentine referred vehicles on a regular basis to Majestic in exchange for payment, usually by contacting Moreno via cellular telephone.
Specifically, while on the scene of an accident, Diggs and Valentine would contact Moreno and provide him with the details of the accident, including the type and extent of damage to the car or cars, insurance information and contact information for the car’s owner. It was agreed that the defendants, while performing their official duties as a police officer, would 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. The defendants advised accident victims that they should not call their insurance company until after they spoke to Moreno.
Valentine also recruited multiple other BPD officers to participate in the conspiracy and extortion scheme. From January to September 2010, Moreno or Mejia paid Valentine by check a total of $14,400 for vehicles that he had referred to Majestic. In September 2010, Moreno and Mejia paid Valentine in cash rather than by checks.
In February 2010, Diggs and Moreno agreed that Moreno would inflict damage upon Digg’s personal vehicle, so that Diggs could make a claim with his insurance company. Diggs’ car had been scratched with a key, and Diggs allowed Moreno to scratch both sides of the car. Diggs filed an insurance claim for the scratched area and his insurance company paid Majestic $2,809 to fix the scratches.
Diggs understood and 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 Diggs and the payment of the vehicle owner’s deductible. Diggs falsified police reports indicating that some vehicles had more damage than they actually had so that Moreno could add more damage to the vehicle once it got to Majestic.
Between March 2010 and February 2011, Moreno and Mejia paid Diggs first by check and then in cash a total of $5,050 for vehicles that he had referred to Majestic. Those payments, plus the cost of the additional damages that Moreno and others inflicted upon various accident vehicles in the form of insurance claims paid by the various insurance companies, caused a total loss of between $120,000 and $200,000. 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 has scheduled sentencing for both Diggs and Valentine on March 12, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., respectively.
Moreno and Mejia pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison at their sentencing on November 18, 2011 at 10:30 and 9:15 a.m., respectively. A total of nine police officers have pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy to date.
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.