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August 27, 09

NEWS / City of Miami Police Officer and Two Others Charged in Crime Stoppers Scam

Jeffrey H. Sloman, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael J. Folmar, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, and Robert Parker, Director, Miami Dade Police Department, announced that City of Miami Police Officer Wayne Fortella and two civilian associates, Kurt Burgess and Ainsworth Stanley, were charged in a Criminal Complaint with wire fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud by scheming to collect Crime Stoppers rewards to which they were not entitled, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 1349. Fortella and Burgess made their initial appearances in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick A. White, and were released on bond. Defendant Stanley remains at large.

Today’s charges arose from a long-term investigation jointly conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Miami-Dade Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the cooperation and assistance of the City of Miami Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit. According to the Complaint, Fortella, an 11-year veteran of the Miami Police Department, was assigned as a detective at the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Unit. In this capacity, Fortella was responsible for taking anonymous tips from citizens regarding crimes that had occurred within Miami-Dade County. Fortella, Burgess, and Stanley allegedly took advantage of Fortella’s position to implement a scheme to fraudulently obtain Crime Stoppers reward payments that had not yet been collected by the actual tipsters.

According to the allegations in the Complaint, Fortella used his position at the Crime Stoppers Unit to identify tips that had been authorized for payment but which had not yet been collected by the tipsters, and to learn the substance of the information provided in those tips. Fortella also obtained the unique codes needed to collect these rewards, and then passed this reward collection information to Burgess and Stanley. Thereafter, Burgess and Stanley would use this tip information to fraudulently collect the rewards. In this way, Burgess is alleged to have collected numerous reward payments totaling more than $9000, and Stanley is alleged to have collected reward payments totaling more than $5000.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman stated, “Corruption by public officials, no matter at what level of government, undermines the public’s trust in our public servants. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to helping to restore that trust and to maintain untarnished the good name of the many honest public servants who work and risk their lives each day to help make our communities a better place.

Michael J. Folmar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Office, added, “Crime Stoppers is a valuable and essential program that has assisted law enforcement in catching countless criminals. It is unfortunate that one police officer chose to take advantage of the anonymity that this program offers for personal gain. Nonetheless, the success of Crime Stoppers surpasses the acts of one police officer. Public corruption is a top priority for the FBI and our law enforcement partners, and we will continue to investigate corruption at all levels.”

Director Robert Parker of the Miami-Dade Police Department stated, “It is vital that we take immediate action to root out anyone who participates in illegal activity. Corruption will simply not be tolerated. Anyone who chooses to engage in activity that undermines the public trust will be investigated and prosecuted. The Miami-Dade Police Department stands ready to fully engage with our law enforcement partners to address any allegation of corruption and misconduct.”

If convicted, all three defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of up to twenty (20) years in prison on each count charged in the Complaint. A complaint is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mr. Sloman commended the efforts of the numerous detectives of the Miami-Dade Police Department and special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who have been working on this investigation. Mr. Sloman also thanked the City of Miami Police Department for their assistance during this investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward N. Stamm and Karen E. Gilbert.




AnnaMaria Realbuto
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