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Police officer charged with miami fraud and conspiracy

Posted on August 27, 2009 3:00 AM EST

A Miami police officer assigned to take Crime Stoppers tips collected almost $15,000 in reward money and split it with two of his friends. Officer Wayne Fortella was charged in federal court with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Fortella used inside information to collect rewards for himself and his friends. Fortella was represented by a Miami criminal defense lawyer at his initial hearing. Fortella and one co-conspirator were released on bail. However, one of the co-conspirators remains at large.

Crime Stoppers is a Miami-Dade County organization that receives anonymous tips from Miami residents regarding crimes. Individuals that place calls to Crime Stoppers are given a code name a number. This information is available to all police officers assigned to the Crime Stoppers detachment. Tipsters can call back to determine whether their information led to an arrest. If the information led to an arrest, the Crime Stoppers board convenes to decide whether to approve a reward and the amount of the reward. Once the reward is granted, an individual simply has to go a Wachovia branch and contact Crime Stoppers. If Crime Stoppers approves the reward, the individual can collect the money. Crime Stoppers has a led to arrests in cocaine trafficking, murder, armed robbery and fraud cases.

Fortella worked from the inside by taking the code numbers and code names that had been approved for payment. He would take the approved code numbers and code names and provide them to his co-conspirators who would in turn contact Crime Stoppers and would receive the cash reward. Miami Police Chief John Timoney said in a statement, "I was undoubtedly disappointed and disheartened to hear that Officer Wayne Fortella had been arrested today by the FBI." Richard Masten, the executive director of Crime Stoppers said the charges were sickening.

Investigators became suspicious when the rewards were picked up in the southern part of Miami-Dade County when the tips were supplied from the northern part of Miami-Dade County. Some of the rewards received by Fortella involved a firearm bounty program. One day in June 2008, one of the co-conspirators picked up four different reward from four different bank branches.

Several cellular calls between the co-conspirators and Fortella led to the arrest. FBI agents said there is no legitimate reason for a Crime Stopper's officer to talk to tipster on his cellular phone. More evidence was accumulated against Fortella through a wiretap authorized by a federal judge. Federal agents taped more incriminating conversations between Fortella and his co-conspirators.

FBI: Miami Officer Pocketed Crime Stoppers Reward Cash, The Miami Herald, August 27, 2009.
Categories: Public Corruption