In an effort to boost his department's standing in the local community, a Florida police chief found a way to solve every robbery case in his town. Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano enlisted the help of two officers, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez, to arrest innocent black men for robberies that occurred in the area in 2013 and 2014.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice charged all three men with conspiracy to violate civil rights. When it came time for Dayoub and Fernandez to face their actions in court, however, a judge criticized prosecutors for being too lenient.
U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced both Dayoub and Fernandez to one year in prison for making false arrests. The men were hoping to avoid prison time by helping prosecutors make their case against Atesiano, who pleaded guilty to civil rights conspiracy last month. Judge Moore reportedly told Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Wallace that allowing the former cops to avoid jail time would have sent a terrible message to minorities, was "insulting" to others in law enforcement, and would have amounted to a "slap on the wrist."
Department of Justice attorneys recommended eight months of home confinement for Dayoub and one year probation for Fernandez. Moore said the prosecution's recommendations were "sentencing manipulation."
The Biscayne Park Police's arrest conspiracy affected residents as young as 16. The unnamed teenager was arrested for four previously unsolved burglaries without evidence. In another arrest, the department pinned five separate vehicle burglaries on a 35-year-old; the charges were eventually dropped when the department did not provide sufficient evidence to prosecutors.
Officer Anthony De La Torre reportedly told an internal affairs investigator that officers instructed to collar any black person with "somewhat of a record," and charge them with the burglaries.
From 2013 to 2014, the department boasted a 100% clearance rate for 30 burglary cases. In 2015, the year after Atesiano stepped down as chief, not a single one of 19 burglary cases was cleared.