Two brothers whose Rosedale auto body shop became the focus of a federal investigation into widespread corruption in the Baltimore Police Department were sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Hernan Alexis Moreno, 32, of Rosedale and Edwin Javier Mejia, 29, of Middle River received prison terms of 33 months and two years, respectively, for paying officers to bring them business. The kickbacks scheme was uncovered last year.
Their sentences conclude a federal case that sullied the reputation of the Police Department, implicating roughly 60 officers and resulting in 15 being sentenced in federal court to prison terms between eight and 42 months. Another officer pleaded guilty to theft in state court.
Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland who prosecuted the cases, called the FBI's investigation of the Majestic Auto Repair scheme "as professional an investigation of police corruption as we've ever seen." He credited an FBI wiretap that caught many of the participants discussing the scheme on tape with bringing about guilty pleas fairly quickly.
"It was really the wiretap that resulted in the discovery of all these corrupt police officers and produced irrefutable evidence of their part in the crimes," Rosenstein said.
Anthony Guglielmi, a Baltimore police spokesman, said Wednesday that the closure of the case is "bittersweet" in that it is disappointing officers broke the law but gratifying that the department's own identification of the problem and collaboration with the FBI and Rosenstein brought it to an end.
Acting Commissioner Anthony Barksdale has said previously that he is looking forward to closing "an embarrassing chapter for the department" and is glad the officers involved "were held accountable for their actions."
The officers were found guilty of taking cash payments from Moreno and Mejia in return for referring motorists involved in accidents to Majestic, which opened in 2006 and was not authorized to do business with the city.
Some officers also took their own cars to Majestic for fraudulent claims, falsified police reports and ignored Majestic's effort to increase vehicle damage to boost insurance payouts, according to court records.
According to the brothers' plea agreements, they first arranged in 2008 to pay hundreds of dollars to two city officers, Jhonn Corona and Rodney Cintron, in exchange for the officers' directing business their way.
Moreno testified in federal court that he paid $300 per referral to more than 60 officers, and his business grew so quickly that he had to expand and manage a backlog of customers.
Rosenstein said he hopes the case will motivate officers to report misdeeds "instead of remaining silent or going along with it," as many did in the Majestic case.
"Sometimes police officers are going to cross the line, and we need to hold them accountable, but we don't relish prosecuting law enforcement officers," he said.
Rosenstein said he looks forward to a "culture of integrity" continuing in the department under newly appointed Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, whom Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake selected as Frederick H. Bealefeld III's permanent replacement and who will officially begin Sept. 27 if confirmed by the City Council.