MIAMI, FL — The former Florida police chief who encouraged his officers to arrest innocent people because he wanted to look more successful in fighting crime, was sentenced to three years in jail Tuesday by a federal judge who didn’t necessarily see eye to eye with the chief’s unique approach to law enforcement.
Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring with his subordinate officers to violate individual civil rights by making the false arrests. Prosecutors said Atesiano ordered his officers to arrest three innocent people for unsolved burglaries.
“Today, former Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano stood before the court to answer for his crimes and the federal prison sentence that was imposed is one step toward justice for the victims and our South Florida community,” declared U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan in announcing the sentence.
Three of Atesiano’s former police officers will spend between one to two years in federal prison for arresting innocent people.
Former Biscayne Park Police Officer Guillermo Ravelo was sentenced to 27 months behind bars for conspiracy to deprive a person of his civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law. Two other former officers — Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez — were each sentenced to 12 months in prison for their roles.
“Chief Atesiano intentionally encouraged those officers to arrest individuals without a legal basis in order to have arrests effectuated for all reported burglaries,” according to federal prosecutors. “This created a fictitious, 100 percent clearance rate for that category of crime.”
Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI Miami said that the former chief does not represent the vast majority of law enforcement officials.
“It is on their behalf that the FBI seeks to root out police officers, and other government officials, who violate the civil rights of our citizens,” Piro said.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said that the chief’s conduct undermined every police department in the county.
“Putting an arrest statistic above the rights of an innocent man instead of working to protect all our citizens undermines the safety goals of every Miami-Dade police department,” said Fernandez Rundle. “Miami-Dade’s residents deserve honesty and integrity, qualities that Raimundo Atesiano deliberately failed to deliver.”
Federal prosecutors said that Dayoub and Fernandez were the first officers to cooperate with the government and directly implicate Atesiano.
Atesiano admitted that in one case he instructed an officer to falsely arrest and charge an individual for several vehicle burglaries based on a false confession.
“For his own professional benefit, Chief Atesiano corruptly and disgracefully abused his authority and the power of his office to create fictitious clearance statistics by falsely arresting individuals,” added Assistant U.S. Attorney General Eric Dreiband in Washington, D.C. “This kind of abuse of power has no place in our nation and is contrary to American ideals, the rule of law, and fundamental fairness.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry C. Wallace, Jr.. U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Donald W. Tunnage and Assistant State Attorney Trent Reichling.