MIAMI – The former police chief and two officers in Biscayne Park, Fla. face federal charges of framing a 16-year-old in four unsolved burglaries. The motivation, prosecutors charged Monday, was keeping a perfect score on crime statistics.
Federal prosecutors said Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano and two officers acting under his authority lied about the arrests to wow the small village’s elected leaders with their crime-solving savvy, reported Miami Herald.
Atesiano faced a Miami magistrate judge for the first time Monday afternoon after being indicted on charges that he violated the teen’s civil rights during the arrests five years ago.
“The existence of this fictitious 100% clearance rate of reported burglaries was used by Atesiano to gain favor with elected officials and concerned citizens,” according to an indictment.
Atesiano, 53, now stands accused of encouraging the officers to arrest the teen in June 2013, “knowing that there was no evidence and no lawful basis to support such charges,” prosecutors said after unsealing the indictment. The teen is unnamed in court documents. He is simply referred to as T.D.
The officers who find themselves in legal hot water were identified as Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez. They are accused of collecting evidence from four unsolved burglaries, completing four arrest reports and creating false narratives to imply the teen had broken into four unoccupied homes that April and May, according to the indictment.
At a village council meeting in July 2013, Atesiano claimed a perfect closeout rate for burglary cases in the mostly residential community near Miami Shores that is home to about 3,200 people. This occurred a month after the teen’s arrest.
Atesanio surrendered Monday to authorities on two charges of conspiring to violate the teen’s civil rights and depriving him of those rights. He was granted a $50,000 personal surety bond, co-signed by his wife. Magistrate Judge John J. O’Sullivan set his arraignment for June 25.
After his brief appearance in court, Atesanio’s defense attorney, Neil Schuster declined to comment.
The other two defendants, Dayoub and Fernandez, charged with the same crimes as the former police chief, received summonses and are expected to make their first appearances in federal court later this month.
The police corruption case against Atesiano and the other two former officers took five years to make. It developed through the collaborative efforts of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office. Moreover, the indictments were filed just before the statute of limitations expired.
Krishan Manners, Biscayne Park’s recently hired village manager, condemned the alleged misconduct of the former police chief and officers.
“That’s not the way things are done in Biscayne Park,” said Manners, adding that the village cooperated fully with the FBI-led investigation. “This was five years ago. We have a different manager and a different police chief.”
The new police chief, Luis Cabrera, recently replaced Nicholas Wollschlager.
Wollschlager was hired by North Bay Village’s manager to be a deputy chief there.
Although it has only 11 full-time cops and a handful of reserves, Biscayne Park’s police department has had more than its share of problems over the years, according to the Miami Herald report.
In early 2014, Atesiano abruptly resigned. Two weeks earlier, the village manager, without explanation, suspended the chief along with Capt. Larry Churchman and Cpl. Nicholas Wollschlager, reported the Herald.
All Village Manager Heidi Shafran would say at the time was that she hired a private security consultant to look into possible misdeeds.
A month after his resignation, it was learned that Atesiano had borrowed thousands of dollars from an underling and promised to repay the money through a combination of taxpayer-funded overtime and off-duty work.
The contract signed between Atesiano and Thomas Harrison was penned in handwriting with a royal blue magic marker on a single sheet of white paper. Its bottom right corner had a drawn blue ribbon that said it was an “official seal.” Atesiano called it a joke, but Shafran had a much different perspective. She blasted the former chief, calling it a betrayal of the village.
In 2017, Wollschlager was named interim chief, and the apparent culture of misdeeds continued. He, too, was caught up in the Atesiano loan scandal but was cleared after an investigation. Nevertheless, a few months ago, he abruptly resigned without explanation, only to be hired as the deputy chief in North Bay Village, reported Miami Herald.
Then last November, it was learned Biscayne Park hired George Miyares as a reserve officer — despite his having received rejections from 10 other departments for failed psychological and polygraph tests.
He also was reportedly investigated three times by Miami-Dade Corrections, which hired him as a guard. According to the Herald report, in one case he was cited for excessive use of force.
Furthermore, at the time of his hire, Miyares was at the center of a federal lawsuit that claimed he beat up two men, smashing one of their heads into a sidewalk.
Finally, in April, a former Biscayne Park police officer named Guillermo Ravelo was charged with assaulting two people while on duty and falsifying the police reports. During the same timeframe as the latest civil rights case, Ravelo was accused of hitting a driver with his fist during a traffic stop in April 2013 and of striking another person with a blunt object a few months later.
The FBI along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the civil rights case against Atesiano and the other two officers, Dayoub and Fernandez.
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