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Federal grand jury indicts Baltimore police officers on additional robbery charges

Three of the indicted Baltimore police officers were charged with additional robberies. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)

A federal racketeering case against officers in an elite unit of the Baltimore Police Department deepened Thursday with a new indictment alleging three of them robbed civilians of more than $280,000 over five years.

The three veteran officers from the Gun Trace Task Force also plotted to sell drugs they confiscated during arrests and forged reports to cover their tracks, federal prosecutors said.

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A grand jury indictment was unsealed Thursday bringing additional robbery charges against Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, 37; Detective Daniel Hersl, 48; and Detective Marcus Taylor, 30.

Jenkins is due in court Friday and will plead not guilty, his attorney Steven Levin said. Attorneys for Hersl and Taylor did not return messages Thursday.

The grand jury also indicted two civilians with impersonating police officers to commit an armed robbery while a detective from the gun unit served as a lookout. Thomas Finnegan, 38, of Easton, Pa., and David Rahim, 41, of Baltimore, are charged with conspiracy and robbery.

Online court records did not list attorneys for Finnegan and Rahim.

The Baltimore Police Department remains committed to its officers who reflect the integrity of the job, Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement.

"Good cops don't like to work with bad cops. The vast majority of our agency is comprised of good cops," he said.

The federal investigation began more than a year ago into members of the Gun Trace Task Force, a plainclothes unit deployed to interrupt Baltimore's illegal gun trade.

In February, seven officers in the task force – the entirety of the unit — were indicted on federal racketeering charges.

Jenkins, Hersl, Taylor and four other detectives were accused of extorting citizens, falsifying reports and collecting fraudulent overtime payments — all while federal investigators were inspecting Baltimore police for what they concluded were widespread civil rights violations.

Six officers initially pleaded not guilty.

But in recent months, rearraignment hearings have been scheduled for the four detectives who weren't named in the latest indictment — Momodu Gondo, Jemell Rayam, Maurice Ward and Evodio Hendriz.

Rearraignment hearings are typically held to change a plea, and the attorney for Ward has said his client would be pleading guilty at his hearing scheduled for July 24. Attorneys for the other three officers could not be reached.

Prosecutors did not say on Thursday what led them to bring additional charges against Jenkins, Hersl and Taylor.

"It seems possible that they have obtained cooperation from one or more of the indicted co-defendants," said Jonathan Biran, a Baltimore attorney not involved in the case. "But it is possible that they got information about these new allegations from other sources as well."

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The latest indictment details a pattern of robbery, extortion and overtime fraud between 2011 and 2016. Prosecutors said the three officers routinely robbed drug dealers and shared the cash, even after Jenkins was tipped off that federal agents were investigating the unit.

In one instance, Jenkins robbed a stripper in Baltimore County, prosecutors said. In another, Jenkins and Taylor are alleged to have taken $400 from a man handcuffed in the back seat of a police car.

The three officers also stole cash and drugs by detaining people, making traffic stops and swearing out false search warrants, prosecutors said. They are alleged to have taken the house keys of detainees and entered their homes.

The officers, meanwhile, committed "systemic" overtime fraud, according to the latest indictment. Jenkins filed for overtime while on vacation with his family in Myrtle Beach, S.C., prosecutors said. Taylor is accused of filing for overtime while on vacation in New York City and the Dominican Republic.

According to the indictment, a detective in the unit was recorded saying, "easy money" and "one hour can be eight hours," when referring to an alleged scheme in which Jenkins would sign overtime slips claiming an officer worked eight hours when he only worked one.

Last fiscal year, Jenkins earned a salary of about $85,400 and nearly $83,350 in overtime, according to the indictment. Hersl earned a salary of nearly $77,600 and about $66,600 in overtime. And Taylor earned about $66,800 in salary and $56,200 in overtime.

The officers were accused of overtime fraud in the original indictment as well. Those initial charges prompted Mayor Catherine Pugh to order an audit of police overtime costs, which have surged in recent years. Police blame the costs in part on a shortage of officers, but the indictments raise questions about how much of the overtime is fraudulent.

The initial indictments also led prosecutors to drop criminal charges against dozens of people whose cases hinged on the word of the accused officers.

The charges against the civilians — Finnegan and Rahim — stem from an incident in June 2014, when officers from the gun unit searched a pet store in the Brooklyn neighborhood of South Baltimore and learned the owner had $20,000 in cash to pay off a tax debt, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said Detective Jemell Rayam, a cousin of Rahim and associate of Finnegan, told the two men about the cash, provided them with police tactical gear, and parked outside the store owner's home to intercept any police. The two men robbed the store owner at her home that night, prosecutors said.

All seven officers were ordered held pending trial after judges decided they were a risk to public safety.

Jenkins, Hersl and Taylor have trials scheduled for January.

Hendrix has a rearraignment hearing scheduled for July 21. Ward will plead guilty at a rearraignment hearing July 24, his attorney said last week.

Rearraignment hearings for Rayam and Gondo are scheduled in the fall.

The officers face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison on conspiracy and racketeering charges.

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