Six Defendants Sentenced in City of Miami Public Corruption/Kickback Case
Two former City of Miami Public Service Aides (PSA), three tow truck drivers, and the former owner of a tow company were sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke today for their participation in a kickback/bribery scheme. In that scheme, four tow truck drivers paid PSAs thousands of dollars in a series of bribes over a multi-year period. In exchange for the payments, the PSAs provided the tow truck drivers accident location information and other confidential information from their police department computers.
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, Ronald Alfaro, 27, Reinaldo Martin Cruz, 30, and Robert Muriedas, 43, all of Miami, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiring to deprive the public of honest services through the use of interstate wires and conspiring to participate in a bribery scheme as/with a City of Miami Police Department employee in connection with a series of transactions valued at $5,000 or more in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Robert Muriedas, the former owner of a tow truck company involved in the scheme, received a sentence of 34 months’ imprisonment. PSA Paulino and PSA Dixon were each sentenced to 30 and 29 months, respectively. The tow trucks’ operators, Tello, Alfaro, and Martin Cruz were each sentenced to 32, 29, and 29 months of imprisonment, respectively. All of the defendants are also required to serve one year supervised release, upon their release from prison.
Michael Perez, 22, of Miami, has been scheduled for sentencing at 11:00 a.m. on October 21, 2015.
According to the facts set forth in court documents, 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.
According to the factual proffers in the court file, Paulino admitted taking more than $35,000 worth of bribes between 2011 and 2014, and Dixon admitted receiving more than $20,000 in bribes between 2012 and 2014. Court documents stated 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. When the damaged vehicles were towed, they were delivered to a particular collision repair business which would pay a kickback to the tow truck operators, the PSAs, and the owner of the tow truck. Payment of these kickbacks was prohibited by the tow truck company’s contract with the City of Miami and the City of Miami also lost revenue because each tow was not properly logged as a rotational tow.
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 copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.