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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Two More Cops Plead Guilty in Towing Scheme

Two More Baltimore Police Officers Plead Guilty in Towing Scheme
The Essex-Middle River Patch by Ron Snyder - October 24, 2011

Two more Baltimore City police officers have pleaded guilty to illegally steering car accident victims to a Rosedale auto repair shop. Jerry Diggs, Jr., 25, of Baltimore, and Osvaldo Valentine, 39, of Edgewood, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit and committing extortion, acording to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland. The two are the eighth and ninth officers to plead guilty to similar charges. The owners of Majestic Auto Repair paid Diggs, Valentine and other Baltimore City Police officers to arrange for their company, rather than a city-authorized business, to tow vehicles from accident scenes and make repairs, states a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland. The officers contacted Majestic owners Herman Alexis Moreno and Edwin Javier Mejia for towing and repair services, even though Majestic was not an authorized Baltimore City towing company, according to the officers' plea deal. In exchange, the owners paid Diggs and Valentine up to $300 for each vehicle they referred to Majestic, according to the release. Valentine also recruited multiple other city officers to participate in the conspiracy and extortion scheme, according to the release. Moreno, 30, of Rosedale, and Mejia, 27, of Middle River, pleaded guilty in July to bribing police. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18. As part of the alleged conspiracy, the officers persuaded accident victims to allow their cars to be sent to Majestic by telling the victims that the business could tow the car, provide repair services, help with the insurance claim, assist in getting a rental car and waive the owner’s deductible, according to the release. Federal prosecutors said that from January to September 2010, Moreno or Mejia paid Valentine $14,400 in checks for vehicle referrals. In September 2010, the owners paid Valentine in cash. In February 2010, Diggs also had Moreno scratch his car with a key which allowed the officer to file an insurance claim for the scratched area, the release states. His insurance company then paid Majestic $2,809 to fix the scratches. Diggs also falsified police reports stating some vehicles had more damage than they actually had sustained so the auto shop could charge more, according to the release. Overall, from March 2010 to February 2011, the Majestic owners paid Diggs $5,050 for his referrals, according to the release. Both officers face a maximum of five years in prison for the conspiracy, and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,0000 fine. Sentencing is set for March 12, 2012.

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