A former small-town Florida police chief and two of his officers are accused of violating a 16-year-old boy’s civil rights in 2013 by framing him for four burglaries he did not commit, federal prosecutors said.
Raimundo Atesiano, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez are each charged with conspiring to violate the boy’s civil rights and with depriving him of those rights under the color of law, according to a federal indictment filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The indictment was unsealed Monday.
Atesiano was the police chief of the Biscayne Park Police Department in the summer of 2013, when prosecutors allege the conspiracy took place. Dayoub was one of Atesiano’s 11 full-time police officers, and Fernandez was one of the department’s 10 reserve officers.
Biscayne Park is a village of about 3,000 people 12 miles north of Miami along Biscayne Bay.
“Atesiano directed Dayoub and Fernandez to arrest (the teen) on June 13, 2013, and falsely charge him with unsolved burglaries knowing that there was no evidence and no lawful basis to support such charges,” a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “The indictment further alleges that following Atesiano’s instruction, Dayoub and Fernandez gathered information for four unsolved burglary cases, completed four arrest affidavits for the burglaries and included a false narrative that an investigation revealed that (the teen) had committed the four burglaries of unoccupied dwellings.”
Federal prosecutors allege that the trio conspired to frame the teen, identified in court documents as T.D., to pad their department’s crime statistics.
“The existence of this fictitious 100 percent clearance rate of reported burglaries was used by Atesiano to gain favor with elected officials and concerned citizens,” the indictment said.
The indictment stated that T.D. was charged with four residential burglaries that took place that April and May in Biscayne Park. Before the boy’s arrest, the four burglaries were the only unsolved burglaries in the village.
“On or about July 9, 2013, at a meeting of the City Council for the Village of Biscayne Park, Raimundo Atesiano stated that the BPPD had a 100 percent clearance rate for burglaries,” the indictment said.
The false charges against the teen were felonies, the indictment said. The outcome of his criminal case was not included in the court documents.
Read the entire indictment below.
The charges against Atesiano, Dayoub and Fernandez were announced Monday following an extensive investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. The Miami Herald reported that the charges were filed just before the statute of limitations on them expired.
Though it was not clear how federal investigators learned of the alleged framing of T.D., who would now be 21 years old, the Herald reported that the Biscayne Park Police Department has been riddled with scandal over the past five years.
Atesiano abruptly resigned in early 2014, just months after the alleged crimes laid out in the indictment took place and two weeks after two other officers, Capt. Larry Churchman and Cpl. Nicholas Wollschlager, were suspended by Biscayne Park’s village manager, the Herald reported.
It was later revealed that Atesiano had borrowed thousands of dollars from a subordinate in the department, according to Biscayne Park officials. His repayment plan allegedly involved overtime and off-duty work for the employee -- on the taxpayers’ dime.
“The contract signed between Atesiano and Thomas Harrison was penned in handwriting with a royal blue magic marker on a single sheet of white paper,” the Herald reported. “It’s bottom right corner had a drawn blue ribbon that said it was an ‘official seal.’”
Atesiano denied borrowing money from Harrison and said the IOU was a joke, the newspaper reported in May 2014.
Wollschlager, who was ultimately cleared in that investigation, became interim chief in 2017 but has since resigned, the Herald said. He is now deputy chief in North Bay Village, the newspaper reported.
Another scandal broke last fall when it became public that another Biscayne Park reserve officer, George Miyares, was hired in 2013 by the department after he had been rejected by 10 other law enforcement agencies, the Herald reported.
According to records obtained by the newspaper, Miyares failed polygraph tests, background checks and psychological evaluations during his applications to other agencies, which included the Miami and Fort Lauderdale police departments. He admitted those failures in his handwritten application, the newspaper said.
Just nine months into his employment with Biscayne Park, Miyares was accused of beating two men during an early-morning confrontation as the reserve officer went home from an off-duty security detail. The Herald reported that Miyares was accused of attacking the men and smashing one man’s head into a sidewalk, breaking several of his facial bones.
Miyares resigned after a lawsuit was filed against him and the Village of Biscayne Park but was hired by Miami-Dade County Corrections & Rehabilitation. As a jail guard, he was investigated three times, the Herald reported.
In one of those cases, he was cited for using excessive force, the newspaper said.
The most recent scandal before last week’s indictment came in April, when former Biscayne Park police Officer Guillermo Ravelo was indicted in federal court on charges of depriving two men of their civil rights in separate incidents while wearing the badge, as well as charges of falsifying records in the investigation.
The indictment alleged that Ravelo, who was fired in March, responded on April 7, 2013, to a request for backup by another Biscayne Park police officer who had conducted a traffic stop.
“During the arrest of the driver, officer Ravelo struck the driver with his fist,” a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “In a separate incident, on June 14, 2013, while still employed as a police officer with the Biscayne Park Police Department, Officer Ravelo responded to a call concerning an ongoing vehicle burglary in Biscayne Park and struck the suspect with a blunt object.
“Both assaults resulted in bodily injury and on both occasions, Officer Ravelo falsified the police reports by misstating the circumstances of the arrests and by omitting that he struck both of the victims.”
If convicted, Ravelo faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $250,000.
Atesiano, who was police chief when the allegations against both Ravelo and Miyares took place, faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted, as do Dayoub and Fernandez, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Atesiano, who was arrested last week by U.S. Marshals, faced a magistrate for the first time Monday, at which time he was granted a $50,000 personal surety bond co-signed by his wife, the Herald reported. His arraignment was set for June 25.
Dayoub and Fernandez received summonses and are anticipated to appear in court for the first time later this month, the newspaper said.