Two owners of Majestic Auto Repair in Rosedale pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday for paying Baltimore City police officers bribes of up to $1 million for steering car owners to their business in a complex scheme that also involved officers falsifying police reports, according to a press release from the Maryland U.S. Attorney's office.
Hernan Alexis Moreno, 30, of Rosedale, and his brother, Edwin Javier Mejia, 27, of Middle River, could each get a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the extortion conspiracy, according to the press release. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake is scheduled to sentence the brothers on Nov. 18.
In addition, four former Baltimore City police officers have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in September and October, according to the federal prosecutors.
The plea agreements allege that the brothers paid officers to have Majestic, and not a city-authorized company, tow vehicles away from accident scenes and make repairs.
Starting in 2008, the brothers allegedly agreed to pay two officers to contact them from hit-and-run and other accident locations for towing and repair services instead of contacting a company that the city had already authorized for towing, according to the press release. Mejia or Moreno would then pay $150-$300 for every vehicle that came to their repair shop, the release stated.
These first officers then began recruiting other officers into the scheme, prosecutors said. The plea agreement states that by early 2011, more than 50 police officers were in on the scheme. The officers and Majestic's owners then allegedly told the owner of a car involved in the accident that it couldn’t be driven, even if that wasn’t true. Prosecutors said that enabled Majestic to submit false towing charges to the insurance company.
In other situations, Moreno and Mejia conspired with officers to further damage cars to increase the profit Majestic could gain from insurance payments—so that the insurance company would cover the cost of paying the police and the car owner’s deductible payments, prosecutors said.
A police officer could then falsify the accident report to make it look like the additional damage came from the accident, prosecutors said.
The additional damage to the vehicles caused an extra loss between $200,000 and $1 million in insurance claims the companies paid out, prosecutors said.