A Florida Highway Patrol trooper was arrested Tuesday after investigators said he helped a dentist buddy cover up a hit-and-run crash that left a gardener severely injured.
Prosecutors charged David Casillas, 35, with organized fraud, filing a false insurance claim and official misconduct. He surrendered Tuesday to a Miami-Dade jail.
Prosecutors say he wrote a bogus report for dentist Jesus Del Valle weeks after the crash. The crash report was used to file a bogus insurance claim for the dentist’s damaged SUV, prosecutors believe.
The trooper’s defense attorney, C. Michael Cornely, denied that his client did anything wrong.
“Troopers often write delayed accident reports. That’s what he did — next thing I know, he’s in hot water,” Cornely said.
FHP fired Casillas in January. “Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing one of our troopers was arrested as a result of this investigation,” FHP Lt. Yosdany Veloz, a department spokesman, said in a statement.
Del Valle, 51, was also arrested as part of the investigation, which lasted more than one year. A mechanic friend, Ariel Perera, is also facing charges but had not been arrested as of Tuesday afternoon.
According to an arrest warrant, the case began when Del Valle, driving a Ranger Rover SUV, sideswiped a landscaping crew that was working alongside 62nd Street on June 30, 2015.
The gardener, Yoel Montero, of Lewis Tree Service, suffered a traumatic head injury and severe injuries to his right leg, leaving him hobbled for years to come.
The SUV never stopped, driving off even though its passenger-side mirror had been torn off. That detail would be key to breaking the case — mirrors for the 2015 Land Rover can only be ordered directly from Range Rover manufacturers.
Miami Beach Detective Richard Rodriguez soon discovered that in the weeks after the crash, only one such mirror had been sold — to Perera, Del Valle’s friend and a mechanic, for the dentist’s damaged SUV. Witnesses later placed Del Valle behind the wheel at the time of the crash, the warrant said. Cellphone records also placed Del Valle at the scene of the crash.
The probe revealed that Del Valle put in an insurance claim for the damaged SUV.
He turned, prosecutors allege, to Trooper Casillas, a personal friend, who agreed to make a report showing that the crash actually happened seven days later and miles away on Bird Road, not in Miami Beach. The report claimed that the the SUV crashed into a palm tree.
Casillas, in speaking to the Miami Beach detective, acknowledged that Del Valle had admitted the crash actually happened in Miami Beach.
Perera, who is the cousin of the dentist’s girlfriend, also submitted inflated invoices for payment from Del Valle’s insurance company. He is also accused of charging the company for replacement parts that were never actually replaced.