Two days after the State Attorney’s Office dropped charges against two men accused of filing a false police report in Doral, the city’s police chief said his department will continue to take such cases seriously.
In a news conference held at Doral police headquarers, Chief Richard Blom said he didn’t want residents to get the message that people can get away with lying to police and wasting investigators’ time with false claims.
“We’re bound by the statutes to enforce this,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I think it’s a serious offense. I and the police department of Doral are going to continue to aggressively look at these cases and send them to the State Attorney.”
He cited a move by the Florida Legislature this year to up the seriousness of the crime for repeat offenders in these types of cases. As of Oct 1., those who have already been convicted of giving a false report to law enforcement will be charged with a third-degree felony if they do it again.
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“If we don’t prosecute these guys here, there’ll never be convicted of the offense, and it’ll never be a felony,” Blom said.
Juan Carlos Tovar Barrios, a Venezuelan developer, and his employee, Javier Bellon, were accused of lying to police when they accused Doral City Manager Joe Carollo of physically and verbally accosting Tovar during a City Council meeting in September. Bellon had told police he had witnessed the altercation.
The council had just given the go-ahead to a controversial development project owned by Tovar called IVI Doral. The project had intially been partly owned by the adult children of Doral Mayor Luigi Boria. Boria had given his children millions to buy their share of the land.
Later on, in sworn statements to police, Tovar and Bellon gave conflicting stories after a surveillance video came to light that showed no physical altercation between Tovar and Carollo.
Ed Griffith, spokesman for State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, pointed to the closeout memo filed last weekend by special prosecutor Johnette Hardiman when saying his office applies the same standards to every case.
“Every case stands or falls on the sufficiency of the evidence in the case,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
According to the memo, the case had to be dismissed in order “to treat these civilians as we would any other civilians similarly situated.” Hardiman also wrote: “Had the city manager not been involved, the case would not have been given the scrutiny and intense police work that it was given.”
Hardiman also noted that Doral police intially recorded the allegations against Carollo in the form of an “incident report” and not as a criminal-battery case.
“The original intent was simply to document an incident,” she wrote.
Blom said Doral police faced another recent case where a resident admitted to lying to police during an investigation into a traffic accident. According to a Doral police memo, Hardiman dccided not to file charges in that case, as well.
Blom said the department won’t tolerate false reports, and he cited news reports of police departments in other states arresting individuals for making false statements to police.
For example, 28-year-old Timothy Daniel was arrested in November in Savannah, Ga., after police say he lied about being assaulted, robbed at gunpoint, and tied up in his home in September. Authorities concluded tha Daniel had been dishonest after a two-month investigation.
Doral police Captain Joe Seiglie added that the department loses man hours that could be dedicated to real investigations.
“That’s a cost to taxpayers,” he said.