The indictment recounts the work of a gang of criminals.
For years, they broke into homes, stole dozens of vehicles, iPhones, iPads and thousands of dollars in cash. They kicked, slapped, punched, and even tortured their victims.
But the alleged criminals were actually agents of the Sweetwater Police Department — and one of them later became a city commissioner.
Three years after a police corruption scandal, the names of the agents allegedly involved were listed for the first time in a racketeering indictment filed by the Florida Office of Statewide Prosecutors.
The authorities accuse agent Octavio Oliú of official misconduct, racketeering, organized scheme to defraud, and committing battery and theft as part of a “criminal enterprise.” His alleged accomplices are former detective William García, sergeant Reny García (no relation), retired police officer and former commissioner Catalino Rodríguez and former police aide Richard Brenner, according to a copy of the indictment obtained by el Nuevo Herald.
“[The group] and others known and unknown, did knowingly engage in a scheme to defraud through a systematic and ongoing course of conduct,” states the indictment, filed last month by Statewide Prosecutor Nicholas B. Cox. The alleged acts occurred between September of 2010 and August of 2013, the indictment says.
According to authorities, the agents worked with Southland the Towing Company to “unlawfully” strip dozens of people from their cars, with the intention “to defraud the victims and obtain property by fraudulent pretenses or willful misrepresentation of a future act.”
Agents also abused their power to unjustifiably get into people’s homes and steal — from a Dodge Ram, $4,500 in cash and an Apple computer belonging to Victor Manuel Mesa, to a Ford truck, a cellphone and shoes that were the property of Juan Carlos Arencibia and Yadira Fontanilla.
El Nuevo Herald and news partner CBS4 and Univisión 23 unsuccessfully tried to contact Reny García and Rodríguez, who did not respond to phone calls. Brenner declined a request for an interview. A secretary said that Oliú’s attorney, C. Michael Cornely, was out of town.
William García is serving a nine-year sentence in a federal prison for a separate case of credit card fraud. Reny García was suspended from the Sweetwater Police force on Tuesday. Reny García had been reinstated after a paid suspension of over a year amid the investigations that were originally conducted by the FBI. Oliú was also suspended with pay for more than a year and in February was charged with using stolen plates to avoid tolls.
Although the racketeering charges were initially filed against Oliú, the mention of the names of his alleged accomplices indicates that more indictments and arrests may come. The inclusion of the words in the indictment such as “other” and “known and unknown” leaves the door open for charges against more suspects involved in the alleged criminal scheme. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is conducting the investigation.
These allegations do not surprise me. It was a series of corrupt acts committed by a group of cops gone wild.
Richard Díaz, attorney
“These allegations do not surprise me. It was a series of corrupt acts committed by a group of cops gone wild,” said attorney Richard Díaz, who has represented nearly a dozen people who were arrested by Sweetwater Police and whose belongings were confiscated. The city has already settled out of court and paid several thousands of dollars to about 10 people.
El Nuevo Herald and CBS4 investigated the unjustified towings in 2013, after the arrest of former Sweetwater Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño in a separate case of public corruption. Maroño was a partner of Southland Towing’s owner Robert Muriedas.
For years, the city gave Muriedas the monopoly for towing vehicles of people arrested by Sweetwater Police. The city charged $500 — one of the highest fees throughout Miami-Dade County — to return the vehicles to their owners.
Follow Brenda Medina on Twitter: @BrendaMedinar