Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Former Officer William Garcia Found Guilty of Credit Card Fraud

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce the conviction of William Garcia, 39, a detective with the Sweetwater Police Department.

On April 21, 2014, a jury in U.S. District Court found Garcia guilty on 12 counts. Specifically, the defendant was found guilty of one count conspiring to produce, use, or traffic in one or more counterfeit access devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; one count of use of a counterfeit access device, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(1); and ten counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1). Garcia faces a mandatory minimum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison.

At trial, the United States presented evidence documenting Garcia’s improper friendship with a former confidential source. The confidential source, a convicted felon, provided Garcia and another former South Miami Detective Richard Munoz with counterfeit credit cards. During the trial, the source, Munoz, and others testified about Garcia’s possession and use of those cards during shopping trips to Miami-Dade County shopping malls in 2010 and early 2011. During a meeting in late December 2010, Garcia was recorded providing his own personal credit card for use in stealing account numbers and manufacturing counterfeit cards.

Additional evidence at trial showed that Garcia was caught on videotape bringing eight counterfeit credit cards to the residence of the confidential source. During that and other recorded meetings, Garcia explained that he had taken the counterfeit cards from work and that he would share them with the confidential source. During the next two weeks, Garcia was recorded discussing his use of the cards at restaurants, movies, and a mall. Garcia’s presence during the transactions was further documented through use of phone records, placing Garcia’s cell phone in the area of each transaction at the time it occurred.

After the verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno remanded Garcia pending sentencing on June 26, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. in Miami. Munoz, who himself pleaded guilty on March 13, 2014, to related fraud charges, is presently set for sentencing in front of Judge Moreno on May 9, 2014.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI Miami Area Corruption Task Force, the FBI Miami Cyber Task Force, and the Sweetwater Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Lacosta and Sarah Schall.

Two South Carolina Officers Charged with Using Excessive Force

The Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury in Florence, South Carolina returned a two-count indictment today charging Eric Walters and Franklin Brown, both former police officers with the city of Marion Police Department, with using unreasonable force against a female citizen.

Walters and Brown have each been charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, specifically alleging that, while acting as police officers, each defendant used unreasonable force on the victim, resulting in bodily injury. The indictment alleges that on April 2, 2013, Walters and Brown each used their respective tasers multiple times on the victim.

If convicted, each defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

This case is being investigated by the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Resident Agency of the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nicholas Murphy and Henry Leventis for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Potterfield for the District of South Carolina.

Officer George Bermudez On Leave After Tripping and Pushing Students

Georgetown police have placed an officer on paid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation into his actions following a state championship soccer game held in the city over the weekend.

The move to put Officer George Bermudez on leave came after an incident following Vandegrift High School’s win in the University Interscholastic League championship game on Saturday. In video taken from the game broadcast, as well as from fans, you can see what appears to be a uniformed Georgetown police officer tripping and pushing students as they rush onto the field after the win.

Bermudez has been with the department since 2005.

A spokesman for the Georgetown Police Department said parents began emailing the department early Sunday morning, alerting them of the video.

“After personally watching the videos, the actions of my officer are very concerning to me as well,” said Georgetown Police Chief Wayne Nero.

As you see students rush the field after the win, a uniformed Georgetown police officer can be seen sticking his leg out to trip a high school student. He then tries to trip another student.

Then, YouTube video shot by a student at the game shows one of them limping off the field.

Cell phone video sent to ReportIt@KXAN.com also shows the officer pushing two girls off the field.

KXAN spoke to the 16-year-old student who watched all of this unfold while shooting the video on his phone.

“He should’ve used better judgement,” Rohan Gupta said. “We’re high schoolers just trying to have some fun after our team won.”

The Georgetown Police Department issued a statement Sunday evening.

“Georgetown administrators have taken the information and will be forwarding it to internal affairs for review and investigation,” GPD Captain Roland Waits said.

Officer Michelle Coffey Arrested for Drunk Driving

A Coon Rapids police officer is scheduled to appear in court next month on suspicion of driving drunk while off duty two weeks ago.

Michelle Coffey, 43, was arrested April 10 after the vehicle she was driving was involved in a property damage accident in Ramsey and the responding officer detected a strong smell of alcohol on Coffey's breath, according to an incident report provided Tuesday by Ramsey police.

Coffey, a patrol officer, has been employed with the Coon Rapids Police Department for at least 15 years, according to Police Chief Brad Wise.

"She is taking this very seriously and will be taking proactive steps to address it," said Mike Brandt, Coffey's attorney.

The incident took place at 4:42 a.m. at the intersection of Sunfish Lake Boulevard and Nowthen Boulevard.

Coffey was reportedly traveling on Sunfish Lake Boulevard with a male passenger when she went to turn onto Nowthen Boulevard and pulled out in front of another car, the incident report said.

The other vehicle ended up hitting Coffey on the driver's side, causing heavy damage to both vehicles. Nobody was hurt.

Coffey, who initially told the investigating officer that she had not been driving, failed sobriety tests at the scene.

She recorded a 0.19 blood-alcohol concentration at the Ramsey police station.

She faces two misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and is scheduled to be arraigned May 9 in Anoka County District Court.

Wise described Coffey as a "good person and a great cop" who has no sustained complaints in her personnel file.

She will remain on active duty as her case makes its way through the court system.

"She will respond to the citation and the courts will deal with it and, once that happens, obviously as an employer we will deal with it, also," Wise said. "She made a mistake and she needs to answer for that, but I hope she gets treated just like everybody else."