Baltimore Police Officer Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison in Majestic Towing Company Extortion Scheme
Allowed Repair Shop Owner to Vandalize His Own Car and Filed Fraudulent Insurance Claim
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 19, 2012|
BALTIMORE—U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Baltimore Police Officer Jerry Diggs, Jr., age 25, of Baltimore, today to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit and committing extortion under color of official right in connection with a scheme in which brothers Hernan Moreno and Edwin Mejia paid Diggs and over 50 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. Judge Blake also ordered that Diggs pay restitution in the amount of $13,105.09.
The sentence was 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.
“Officer Diggs chose a treacherous path that included taking bribes, filing false police reports and committing insurance fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Even as we condemn such criminal conduct, we should pause to thank the many police officers who serve with honor and integrity.”
According to his plea agreement, Diggs agreed with Moreno and Mejia that while acting in his capacity as a Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officer at accident scenes, Diggs 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 up to $300 for each vehicle that arrived at Majestic. Diggs referred vehicles on a regular basis to Majestic in exchange for payment, usually by contacting Moreno by cell phone.
Specifically, while on the scene of an accident, Diggs 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 Diggs, while performing his 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. Diggs advised accident victims that they should not call their insurance company until after they spoke to Moreno.
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 also 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 accident vehicles in the form of insurance claims paid by the insurance companies, caused a total loss of between $120,000 and $200,000.
Hernan Alexis Moreno, age 30, of Rosedale; and Edwin Javier Mejia, age 27, of Middle River, pleaded guilty to the extortion conspiracy and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Their sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
To date, 14 Baltimore police officers have pleaded guilty to their participation in the extortion scheme in federal court and one officer pleaded guilty in state court. The last remaining police officer, Jaime Luis Lugo, age 36, of Aberdeen, Maryland, is scheduled to have his re-arraignment on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. in federal court in Baltimore before Judge Blake.
Diggs is the second officer to be sentenced in the conspiracy. Baltimore Police Officer David Reeping, age 42, of Arbutus, Maryland, was sentenced on March 13, 2012 to eight months in prison for his role in the conspiracy.
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 Tonya N. Kelly and Kathleen O. Gavin, who are prosecuting the case.