Baltimore City

Baltimore officer pleads guilty in towing scheme

The second of 17 Baltimore police officers charged with extortion in an alleged kickback scheme involving a towing company pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday, according to the Maryland U.S. attorney's office.

Officer Jermaine Rice, 28, of Woodstock, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced Sept. 23. His colleague, Officer David Reeping, 41, pleaded guilty to the same charge on June 8.

A total of seven officers, including Rice and Reeping, were charged in what is called a criminal information, an indication that they were planning to cooperate with authorities. Ten officers, along with the owners of the towing company, were indicted on extortion charges and face trial.

The officers were arrested in February as part of a sweeping indictment involving widespread corruption on the force. Many of the officers were assigned to the Northeast District. An additional 14 officers who were implicated were suspended but not criminally charged.

Federal prosecutors allege that the officers directed motorists involved in car accidents or with stranded vehicles to Majestic Towing in Rosedale, saying the company would waive towing fees, help motorists with their insurance claims and save them money.

Prosecutors said many unsuspecting drivers took the officers up on their offer, not knowing they were skirting the rules by using a company not approved by the city, rather than one of the city's designated "medallion" towing companies. The indictments allege that Majestic owners paid the officers $300 for each car steered to their shop.

Rice admitted in court to participating in the scheme between July 2010 and Feb. 2011. The plea agreement says that Rice pocketed $1,500 in kickbacks from the repair shop owners. Rice's attorney, Richard Seligman, did not return calls Tuesday.