Miami, FL – A federal judge sentenced the former police chief of Biscayne Park to three years in prison on Tuesday for a conspiracy to frame black people in order to improve his department’s case closure rate.
Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano admitted that he was trying to keep community leaders happy when he directed his officers to arrest random black men for crimes they did not commit, the Miami Herald reported.
“When I took the job, I was not prepared,” Atesiano told U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore on Tuesday. “I made some very, very bad decisions.”
The disgraced 53-year-old former police chief pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy charges that he and several of his officers had deprived three suspects of their rights when they were arrested and charged without a legal basis, the Miami Herald reported.
He faced up to 10 years in prison for his crimes, but the judge sentenced him to only three, and allowed him to wait two weeks before surrendering in order to care for his terminally-ill mother.
The case against Atesiano focused on 2013 and 2014 - the two years when he was chief of police in Biscayne Park.
Prosecutors said the former police chief ordered officers to arrest several innocent people for unsolved vehicle and home burglaries in order to improve the crime statistics for his village.
Atesiano had claimed his department cleared 29 of 30 burglary cases while he was chief, but federal prosecutors determined that at least 11 of those cases were based on false arrests, the Miami Herald reported.
Internal public records obtained from the police department by the Miami Herald showed that the Biscayne Park command staff had been pressuring officers to make lockups by targeting random black people.
“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,” one officer explained during an internal investigation in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100 percent clearance rate for the city.”
Biscayne Park Police Officers Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez pleaded guilty in August to falsifying the arrest affidavits for four unsolved burglaries in June of 2013, to make it appear as though a black 16-year-old boy was their suspect, the Miami Herald reported.
Those charges were dropped when the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney’s Office noticed that all four affidavits looked too similar.
Both officers were sentenced to a year in prison by Moore for their participation in the false arrests, according to the Miami Herald.
Another federal judge - Cecilia Altonaga – sentenced former Biscayne Park Police Officer Guillermo Ravelo to two years and three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge that he violated the rights of two falsely accused suspects.
Ravelo also pleaded guilty to using excessive force on a Hispanic man during a traffic stop, the Miami Herald reported.
The pleas by the former Biscayne Park officers served to highlight the extremes the former police chief was willing to go to report a high burglary clearance rate to the town’s officials.
It has also opened up a Pandora’s Box of other potentially-tainted cases, the Miami Herald reported.
Atesiano worked as an officer for Sunny Isles Beach, Hialeah, and Miami-Dade County Corrections before he became chief of the Biscayne Park Police Department in 2014.
The Miami-Dade public defender’s office has been reviewing cases from his time on that department.
“He fabricated evidence. He damaged lives. Even before he was chief, Atesiano issued 2,200 traffic tickets himself in one year, fabricated cases, and wrongfully arrested innocent individuals,” Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez told the Miami Herald. “He created a culture of corruption that has further eroded public trust in the criminal justice system. Just as appalling is the damage Atesiano has done to law-abiding, hardworking, police officers and chiefs.”
Atesiano’s attorneys maintained that none of the suspects were targeted because of their race and told the judge on Tuesday that “they were no saints,” pointing to the men’s prior arrest records.
Moore sentenced Atesiano to 36 months in prison – three more than what government prosecutors had asked for, the Miami Herald reported.