Crime

Miami Cops, Public Service Aides Suspended Over Tow Truck Scheme

A complaint that began with towing companies grumbling at a city commission meeting about "pirate" drivers stealing their city-approved jobs has reportedly blossomed into a mass FBI probe of Miami cops. Now three Miami officers and two public service aides have been suspended under allegations that they called unapproved tow trucks to accident scenes in return for a kickback.

"We haven't been given any official notice, just word that there's a federal investigation involved," Sgt. Javier Ortiz, president of Miami's police union, tells Riptide.

Ortiz declined to identify the officers as the investigation continues, but says he expects the feds to go for indictments of the cops.

"If it's the FBI conducting this investigation, chances are they'll try to take this to a grand jury at some point," Ortiz says.

The investigation began at a February 2013 City of Miami commission meeting, CBS4 reports, as higher towing fees were under discussion. A number of city-approved tow companies complained that they regularly lost business to illegal tow drivers who'd swoop into accident scenes.

The feds believe they weren't acting alone; the three cops involved called the tow companies in exchange for kickbacks.

Ortiz declined to comment on the allegations until the feds file a formal complaint.

The case wouldn't be the first corrupt cop and tow truck scheme in South Florida. In 2010, a Surfside cop and his brother, who worked for a tow company, were charged with running a scheme to tow drunk drivers out of the tiny municipality.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink