After testifying in court that he framed two innocent black men for unsolved crimes, a former Florida police officer revealed that he was following orders and did it at the direction of his boss.
The former officer, Guillermo Ravelo, appeared in a Miami federal court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, The Miami Herald reported Friday.
Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano has been accused of encouraging his staff to pin unsolved crimes on random, nearby black people so his 12-person department would have a better arrest record.
Prosecutors allege that Atesiano told Ravelo in 2014 to arrest 31-year-old Erasmus Banmah for five unsolved vehicle burglaries despite a lack of evidence.
According to court records obtained by The Herald, Ravelo filled out the required paperwork on Banmah just days later, where he “falsely claimed in an arrest affidavit that Banmah had taken him to the site of the respective burglary and confessed to the items that he had stolen.”
It was allegedly the second time Ravelo made a false arrest under Atesiano’s guidance.
Prosecutors claim that Ravelo arrested 35-year-old Clarens Desrouleaux in January 2013 for two unsolved home break-ins at Atesiano’s direction.
Ravelo falsely wrote in the arrest affidavits that Desrouleaux “had confessed to committing the burglary,” according to the prosecution.
The charges against both Banmah and Desrouleaux were eventually dropped.
According to the newspaper, Ravelo, who was kicked off the force earlier this year, also pleaded guilty on Thursday to an excessive force charge against him following a 2013 traffic stop where he punched a handcuffed suspect in the face.
The charges were part of an alleged department history of targeting random people to achieve a spotless crime-solving record before an internal investigation in 2014, the Herald reported earlier this month.
“If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” Officer Anthony De La Torre said in a 2014 probe uncovered by the Herald this month. “They were basically doing this to have a 100 percent clearance rate for the city.”
Atesiano’s department cleared 29 out of 30 burglary cases in 2013 and 2014 but at least 11 of those cases were based on false arrests, investigators say.
Atestiano and two officers, Raul Fernandez and Charlie Dayoub, have also been charged with falsely accusing in 2013 a black Haitian-American teenager — identified as T.D. — of four burglaries in order to achieve a perfect clearance rate on property crimes that year.
All have pleaded not guilty to the accusations but Fernandez and Dayoub plan to change their pleas to guilty next month, according to the Herald reporting on court records.
All three men are reportedly cooperating in the charges against Atesiano. Prosecutors may add an additional charge to Atesiano’s indictment based on Ravelo’s testimony, according to the report.