Charges against three Prince George's County police officers left a nasty taste in the chief's mouth, he said Monday evening.
Chief Roberto Hylton made the comments hours after the FBI arrested the officers, saying he is concerned that greed has taken over some of the department's employees. The officers were arrested Monday morning as part of an ongoing investigation. The FBI also served search warrants throughout the county and in Prince William County, Va.
"I'm outraged at the disgraceful conduct demonstrated by three of our officers, who tarnished our badge for their own greed and personal gain," Hylton said.
In two indictments unsealed Monday, a federal grand jury indicted a total of nine defendants, including the three Prince George’s County police officers. Seven defendants, including two of the officers, are charged in the first indictment with conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right in a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol. The second indictment charges the third officer and another man with a drug and gun conspiracy.
Prince George's County police confirmed that the FBI arrested Sgt. Richard Delabrer, Cpl. Chong Chin Kim and Officer Sinisa Simic.
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said the officers abused the public trust, NBC Washington's Chris Gordon reported.
"We gave them badges to enforce the law," he said. "They used them to break the law."
Delabrer, 45, of Laurel, Md., and Kim, 42, of Beltsville, Md., were charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion under color of official right.
According to the indictment, they agreed that Amrik Singh Melhi, a 51-year-old Clarksville native who owns numerous liquor stores in Maryland, and others would pay police officers in exchange for them using their official authority to ensure the safe transport and distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol in Maryland and Virginia.
The others charged were Melhi's 49-year-old wife, Ravinder Kaur Melhi; Amir Milijkovic, a 39-year-old auto glass store owner from Bowie, Md.; Chun "Eddy" Chen, 34, of Bowie; and Jose Moreno, 49, of Alexandria, Va. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted in the extortion conspiracy case.
The first indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $3.5 million, 25 properties, 13 vehicles and 84 bank accounts.
In the second indictment, two people were charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and use of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking: Simic, 25, of Woodbridge, Va.; and Mirza Kujundzic, 30, of Woodbridge. Conviction could result in sentences of up to life in prison with a minimum of five additional years on the gun charges, Gordon reported.
Simic already was suspended without pay when he was arrested Monday, NBC Washington's Julie Carey reported. Drugs had been found in his personal vehicle in July. He also had been suspended with pay prior to that for another offense.
The Prince George's County Police Department said it is cooperating fully.
At least one officer apparently met his alleged co-conspirators through off-duty work at a liquor store. Hylton promised a review of moonlighting policies for officers.
The FBI confirmed that a search being conducted at Tick Tock Liquor in Hyattsville, Md., is part of this investigation. Both the FBI and the IRS were at the scene. More FBI agents were seen coming out of Delabrer's Laurel home with numerous boxes, according to NBC Washington's Darcy Spencer. Agents also searched Simic's Woodbridge, Va., home, Gordon reported.
The charges are part of an ongoing series of public corruption investigations in the county, and more could follow, U.S. Attorney Rosenstein said.
"We have ongoing right now a series of related investigations here in Prince George's County," Rosenstein said. He would not comment on how the various investigations may be related.
It does not appear that the officers' arrests are directly related to Jack Johnson's arrest on Friday.
"It's part of an ongoing investigation in Prince George's County," said FBI spokesman Richard Wolf, of the bureau's Baltimore field office. "I'm not going to make connections to any other cases that are currently out there."
At a U.S. District Court appearance in Greenbelt Monday, the defendants were ordered held in custody until detention hearings later this week.
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