Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Towing-scheme conviction affirmed; restitution order shaved

A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the conviction and 18-month prison sentence of a former Baltimore police officer for his role in a towing company extortion scheme.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld the $1,500 in restitution that the trial judge ordered Samuel Ocasio to pay to the Baltimore Police Department. But the 4th Circuit overturned U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake’s order that Ocasio pay $1,870.58 in restitution to Erie Insurance, saying the officer was never convicted of — let alone charged with — insurance fraud.

Ocasio was convicted in February 2012 of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion related to a scheme to have Majestic Auto Repair Shop tow cars involved in collisions to its facility in Baltimore County, rather than have a city-authorized company tow the cars away. In return, Majestic paid Ocasio and eight other officers about $300 for each illicit referral.

Ocasio appealed his conviction and sentence to the 4th Circuit, winning only on his argument that the restitution order to Erie was improper.

“Perhaps Ocasio could also have been convicted of defrauding Erie Insurance or conspiring to do so, but that did not occur,” Judge Robert B. King wrote for the three-judge panel. “The United States Attorney and the grand jury did not see fit to charge Ocasio with an insurance fraud scheme, and it would thus be inappropriate to penalize him as though he was also convicted of that offense.”

The other police officers and Majestic owners Herman Moreno and Edwin Mejia pleaded guilty to involvement in the kickback scheme and were not parties to Ocasio’s appeal.

Judges Diana Gribbon Motz and Dennis W. Shedd joined King’s published opinion in U.S. v. Ocasio, No. 12-4462.