Six Arrests in City of Miami Public Corruption/Kickback Case
Two former City of Miami Public Service Aides (PSA) and four two truck drivers were arrested this morning for their alleged participation in a kickback/bribery scheme, in which the four tow truck drivers allegedly paid the PSAs thousands of dollars in a series of bribes over a multi-year period. In exchange for the payment, the PSAs allegedly provided to the drivers real-time accident location information that they had obtained from police computer software programs.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Miami Field Office, and Rodolfo Llanes, Chief, City of Miami Police Department (MPD), made the announcement.
City of Miami PSA Aristides Paulino, 31, City of Miami PSA Keri Dixon, 27, Jesus Tello, 29,Reinaldo Martin Cruz, 30, Ronald Alfaro, 27, and Michael Perez, 22, were charged by complaint with conspiring to commit wire fraud and pay bribes related to local agencies receiving federal funds.
According to the facts set forth in the complaint affidavit, the City of Miami has established a wrecker operator system for the purpose of protecting drivers and preventing corruption. For example, when a car is disabled because of an accident, the driver must call a tow company himself or herself, have his or her insurance company arrange a tow, or ask the responding officer or PSA to arrange a tow. If an officer or PSA is asked to arrange the tow, almost every police department, including MPD, has strict regulations on how that tow referral must be made.
As further alleged, the information provided by PSAs Paulino and Dixon to tow truck operators Tello, Martin Cruz, Alfaro and Perez, and other unnamed co-conspirators, enabled the tow truck operators to arrive first at accident scenes, often times even before the arrival of law enforcement. Once there, the tow truck operators would illegally solicit stranded accident victims for towing and steer those victims to a particular collision repair business.
The complaint also alleges that at the times when PSAs Paulino and Dixon were present at the accident locations, Paulino and Dixon actively assisted the tow truck operators in soliciting business from the stranded individuals. The particular collision repair business that profited from the illegal tows would then pay a kickback to the tow truck operators and PSAs so that they too would be enriched from their participation in the illegal scheme.
“After an accident, individuals are concerned with their well-being and the well-being of the other accident victims. The two Public Service Aides and four tow truck drivers arrested today used these concerns to violate their positions for illicit profit,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. “The residents of Miami have a choice. If you are in an accident and a tow truck operator that you have not called arrives, know that you have the right to refuse that operator’s service. As the charges filed today demonstrate, we are committed to unraveling this scheme to bring those who target accident victims to justice.”
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI Miami Area Corruption Task Force and the Internal Affairs Section of MPD. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Lacosta.
A criminal complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.