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Appeals court overturns officer's sentence in Majestic case

InsuranceBlackmail and Extortion

A federal appeals court overturned the sentence of a Baltimore police officer convicted of taking kickbacks from a tow truck company, ruling that a lower court was wrong in how it assigned a dollar value to the scheme.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Officer Kelvin Quade Manrich, 44, should be sentenced again.

"Hopefully, it will result in a lower sentence," said Bruce A. Johnson Jr. the attorney who represented Manrich in the appeal.

Manrich pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy and extortion under color of official right after five days of trial last year. In total, 15 officers were federally convicted in the scheme, which involved sending vehicles involved in accidents to Majestic Auto Repair in Rosedale in exchange for payoffs.

The owners of Majestic also submitted inflated insurance claims connected to the damaged vehicles.

One other appeal in the case is pending, but Johnson said the ruling is unlikely to affect the sentences of the other people convicted.

"They've missed their chance," he said. "The court could on its own make amendments, but I don't think they would do that under the circumstances."

The United States Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manrich's 41-month prison sentence, which he is currently serving at a minimum security facility in Minnesota, was based in part on a calculation that his role in the kickback scheme was valued at $70,000. That number represented the sum of payments Manrich received, payments to other conspirators he knew was involved, and fraudulent insurance claims Majestic made.

But on the last part, the appeals court found no evidence on which the lower court had made its decision.

"Nothing … justifies the determination that one-third of each claimed [insurance] amount was fraudulent," the unsigned opinion reads. "Nor did the court indicate that it was relying on trial testimony from any particular witness to substantiate this critical finding.

"On the record as it exists now, we have no basis of which to conclude that it is a reasonable estimate."

iduncan@baltsun.com

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