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Last month, we told you about Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano, who, along with two other officers, was charged with framing an innocent teenager in order to keep their clearance rate for burglaries at 100 percent. This month's story of Florida cop frame-ups involves an officer in the same department, allegedly acting at the direction of Atesiano.
Guillermo Ravelo pleaded guilty last week to charges that he falsely accused two black men of crimes: one with a pair of home break-ins in 2013, and the other with five vehicle burglaries in 2014. Atesiano had once boasted clearing 29 of 30 burglary cases during his tenure as chief. At least 11 of those were based on false arrest reports.
Ravelo, along two other former police officers involved in falsifying charges, Raul Fernandez and Charlie Dayoub, is now cooperating with federal law enforcement in the case against Atesiano. And Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Wallace added an additional charge to the former chief's civil-rights conspiracy indictment based on one of Ravelo's arrests.
According to prosecutors, in February 2014 Atesiano told Ravelo to arrest Erasmus Banmah for five unsolved vehicle burglaries, despite knowing there was "no evidence" that he had committed the crime. For each of the burglaries, Ravelo "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." And in January 2013, Atesiano allegedly ordered Ravelo to arrest Clarens Desrouleaux for two unsolved home break-ins. Ravelo then signed two arrest affidavits, again falsely claiming that Desrouleaux "had confessed to committing the burglary."
In a report from 2014, four of Biscayne Park's 12 officers told an outside investigator they were ordered to file the false arrest reports to improve the department's crime stats. "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," one cop says they were told, "arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries ... They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city."
The Miami Herald reports Biscayne Park's new police chief and village manager have insisted the department has been overhauled since Atesiano resigned in 2014 amid allegations of racial profiling and other issues. Atesiano pleaded not guilty as he awaits trial on a slew of conspiracy and civil rights charges.
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