3 officers, 6 others charged in drug, cigarettes, alcohol scheme
Monday, November 15, 2010; 12:31 PM
Nine people, including three Prince George's County police officers, were arrested Monday on charges involving drugs, guns and a large-scale scheme to distribute untaxed cigarettes and alcohol, according to federal officials.
Sources said the charges are connected to the recent arrest of Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, but it is unclear exactly how the cases are related. The arrests are part of a larger investigation of corruption in Prince George's.
The nine arrested Monday were taken into custody in the early morning hours during an operation that involved 150 law enforcement officers executing as many as a dozen search warrants.
The police officers are Sgt. Richard Delabrer, 45, of Laurel, Cpl. Chong Chin Kim, 42, of Beltsville and Sinisa Simic, 25, of Woodbridge.
According to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, Prince George's County liquor store owner Amrik Singh Melhi and others paid Delabrer and Kim to guard and secure the distribution of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol in Maryland and Virginia. They and four others are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion.
Simic is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and use of firearms in drug trafficking.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $3.5 million, 25 properties, 13 vehicles and 84 bank accounts affiliated with the crimes.
"Police officers are given badges and guns to prevent crimes, but these police officers allegedly used them to commit crimes," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "The indictment charges that they crossed a bright line from catching criminals to conspiring with criminals."
Liquor store owner Melhi, 51, of Clarksville owns several liquor stores, including Tick Tock, where Delabrer worked as an off-duty security officer. Also arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit extortion were Melhi's wife, Ravinder Kaur Melhi, 49; Amir Milijkovic, 39, of Bowie, who owns an auto glass store in College Park; Chun Chen, 34, of Bowie; and Jose Moreno, 49, of Alexandria.
Mirza Kujundzic, 30, of Woodbridge was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and use of firearms in drug trafficking.
All are expected to have their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt today at 1:30 p.m.
Those charged in the extortion conspiracy case face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Simic and Kujundzic are facing life sentences for the drug conspiracy charge and five years for possession of firearms.
Prince George's Police Chief Roberto Hylton said that before Monday morning, he knew very little of the federal investigation that now includes three of his officers. He said federal authorities "did not share the targets, the names of the targets with me," so he could not suspend all those involved while the investigation continued.
He said federal authorities assured him they would keep a close watch on the officers involved so that public safety would not be jeopardized.
Hylton said he welcomed the help of federal authorities "in helping me remove those who were not doing the right thing," but he worried that the arrests of a few would color the public's perception of the entire police department.
"This should not reflect the attitude or character of the force," Hylton said. "We have a very large organization, and people were not doing the right thing."
Sources said two of the officers involved were assigned to the Beltsville station, and a third was assigned to the Bowie station - though that officer already had been suspended for several months.
The two officers assigned to Beltsville were arrested at their station after being called in Monday morning, sources said. Just after 10 a.m., federal investigators were still there, combing through a personally owned SUV that apparently belonged to one of the officers.
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