7 Baltimore police officers indicted in racketeering case

By Allen Cone  |  March 1, 2017 at 2:33 PM
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March 1 (UPI) -- Seven Baltimore police officers were arrested and indicted Wednesday on federal racketeering charges.

The officers are accused of robbing local residents, filing false affidavits and making fraudulent overtime claims, the Justice Department announced at a news conference. One officer also was indicted in a separate drug distribution case by the Justice Department.

The yearlong investigation involved the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Baltimore Police Department.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said the officers were involved in "a pernicious conspiracy scheme that included abuse of power." He said their conduct "tarnishes the reputation of all police officers."

Some of the officers were members of an elite police unit focusing on removing guns from city streets.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said the indictments were embarrassing for the department.

In one alleged incident in March 2016, four indicted officers allegedly stole $200,000 from a safe they opened and from two bags they seized. They also allegedly stole other property.

In August 2016, four indicted officers allegedly stole narcotics and $1,700 from a man during a traffic stop before letting him go. Three of the officers that day also allegedly stole $1,500 earned by a man as a maintenance supervisor at a nursing home that was to be paid for rent.

Officers allegedly filed for overtime they didn't work during the same time period, totaling $500,000, according to court documents. One officer charged overtime to the city while on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

In August, the Justice Department announced in a report it found the department violated individuals' constitutional rights by conducting unlawful stops and using excessive force. The report said this situation was mainly in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods.

In January, the Justice Department and Baltimore agreed to sweeping reforms to the department. A U.S. District Court judge still must approve the binding agreement.

"We wouldn't be under a consent decree if we didn't have issues," Davis said.

Baltimore Deputy Public Defender Natalie Finegar said the majority of the indicted officers had "significant credibility issues."

"I'm going to go over these indictments with every one of our clients with a fine-toothed comb, and it could very well mean that those cases end up dismissed," she said. "If you can't rely on those officers' credibility, and you can't call those officers as witnesses, then what are you going to rely on for evidence?"

Police union president Gene S. Ryan said, "We are very disturbed over the charges filed against our members by the U.S. Attorney today. These officers are entitled to due process and a fair trial in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of our state."

Last year, six police officers were acquitted or charges dropped in the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray.

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