Seven Baltimore police officers who were members of an elite gun task force have been indicted in a racketeering conspiracy that accuses them of robbing people, extorting drug dealers, filing false reports and claiming fraudulent overtime.
One of the officers, who allegedly declared in a telephone call, “I sell drugs,” also faces charges in a separate drug distribution case that tipped off federal investigators to the wider corruption case involving the task force.
The officers abused their power and stole by robbing people during unlawful traffic stops and illegal searches or by skimming cash seized amid investigations, said U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein in announcing the indictments.
“This is not about aggressive policing, it is about a criminal conspiracy,” said Rosenstein, who added that at least 10 victims were robbed, including some who had not committed crimes. “These are really simply robberies by people wearing police uniforms.”
The seven officers also are accused of lying about working overtime when they were not working. One who claimed overtime was on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and another was in the poker room of a casino, federal prosecutors allege.
All told, the seven officers made about $400,000 in overtime pay between July 1, 2015, and June 20, 2016, with at least one officer nearly doubling his $85,000 salary through overtime pay, according to the federal indictment.
Five federal cases that involved police work done by some of the accused officers already have been dropped, said Rosenstein, who is awaiting confirmation to become the next deputy attorney general, the second-highest position in the Justice Department.
The indictments also will have an effect “on numerous active investigations and pending cases in our office,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.
Local defense attorneys said the arrests could also result in appeals or upend the prosecution of an untold number of cases, as the officers charged will probably be considered unreliable witnesses.
At a news conference, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the allegations “heinous acts” and said the officers charged are “1930s-style gangsters, as far as I’m concerned.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Lynh Bui and Peter Hermann