A third Florida officer is accused of falsifying arrest warrants for two men at the direction of his boss, a revelation that’s since widened the federal investigation into a handful of former Biscayne Park officers accused of framing innocent people.
Guillermo Ravelo, 37, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a conspiracy charge of violating the rights of the falsely accused men, both of whom are Black, according to The Miami Herald. One of the men was charged with a pair of home burglaries in 2013, while the other was pinned with five car break-ins the following year.
Orders to falsify the arrests reportedly came from ex-Biscayne Park police chief Raimundo Atesiano, who’s accused of encouraging his staff to pin unsolved crimes on random Black people in an effort to fake a perfect crime-solving record. Artesiano, 52, was indicted back in June, along with two other officers, for pinning four unsolved burglaries on a Black 16-year-old.
According to prosecutors, Artesiano ordered Ravelo to arrest 31-year-old Erasmus Banmah for five unsolved car break-ins in 2014, despite a lack of evidence. The officer filled out the required paperwork for Banmah days later, where he “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,” court records obtained by the newspaper stated.
It wasn’t the first time he’d made a false arrest under the direction of his boss, however. Prosecutors claimed Ravelo also arrested Clarens Desrouleaux, 25, in 2013 for two home break-ins because Artesiano ordered him to. In the arrest affidavits, the now-fired officer falsely wrote that Desrouleaux had “confessed to the burglary,” prosecutors said.
The charges against Banmah and Desrouleaux were eventually dropped.
On Thursday, Ravelo also pleaded guilty to using excessive force during a traffic stop in Biscayne Park where he struck an handcuffed victim in the face with his fist, The Miami Herald reported. The charges were part of an on-going investigation into claims that the department was pinning crimes on innocent people to achieve a stellar crime solving record.
“… 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 policeman, Anthony De La Torre, said in an internal investigation ordered back in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100 percent clearance rate for the city.”
Atesiano abruptly resigned in 2014 in the midst of the probe, prompting a stark shift in the community’s near perfect crime-clearing records. The department went from solving 29 of 30 burglary cases during Atesiano’s two-year tenure, to clearing not one of the 19 burglary cases after his departure.
Atesiano has denied the accusations against him and pleaded not guilty as he awaits his upcoming trial.