Federal authorities charged a veteran City of Miami detective today with scamming the Crime Stoppers tip program for thousands of dollars.
Wayne Fortella, an 11-year vet, faces wire fraud charges for the scam, which netted him $5,000, says Annette Castillo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. District Attorney's Office.
Fortella worked in the Crime Stoppers program, a hotline for people to call in anonymous tips about unsolved crimes. His job was to answer calls and investigate the clues.
Instead, the detective teamed up with two buddies, Kurt Burgess and Ainsworth Stanley, to steal reward money from the program. Fortella would take note when a tip was authorized for a payout, learn the details of the information, and then pass the reward code and the tip info to his cohorts. They'd collect the cash and cut Fortella in on the proceeds.
Prosecutors say the trio stole $9,000 from Crime Stoppers -- with $5,000 going back to Fortella.
"Crime Stoppers is a valuable and essential program that has assisted law enforcement in catching countless criminals," Michael J. Folmer, acting chief of Miami's FBI office says in a release. "It's unfortunate that one police officer chose to take advantage of the anonymity that this program offers for personal gain."
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Fortella has no criminal record, according to Riptide's records search. There are a number of civil complaints attributed to a "Wayne Fortella" in the database, including a domestic violence complaint ten years ago and a mortgage foreclosure in the mid-90s.
All three men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
UPDATE: Miami Police Chief John Timoney just weighed in on Fortella's arrest, saying he was "disappointed and disheartened." Click through for his full statement.
I was undoubtedly disappointed and disheartened to hear that Officer Wayne Fortella has been arrested today by the FBI. Officer Fortella was allegedly cashing in on monies intended for citizens who give Crime Stoppers of Dade County tips that lead to an apprehension of a suspect in a crime. The Miami Police Department's Internal Affairs Section has assisted the FBI and the Miami-Dade Police Department from the beginning of this investigation. Let me make it clear that we take these allegations very seriously.
Any time a law enforcement officer is accused of tarnishing the badge, it is an embarrassment to all the honest, hard-working members of this profession who work, day in and day out, to protect and serve with integrity.
It is important for me to convey that anonymous tips called in by citizens are crucial to the success of our investigations. Police officers simply cannot do it alone!
The allegations surrounding Officer Fortella are in no way a reflection of Crime Stoppers of Miami Dade or the Miami Police Department. I urge you to continue to believe in our shared mission.