Admits Conspiring To Violate Civil Rights, Using Excessive Force, And Filing False Police Report
NEWARK, N.J. – A City of Paterson police officer today admitted conspiring to violate the civil rights of individuals in Paterson, using unreasonable and excessive force, and filing a false police report to conceal his criminal activity, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Police Officer Frank Toledo, 30, of Paterson, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court to a three-count information charging him with conspiracy to violate individuals’ civil rights, using unreasonable and excessive force in violation of individuals’ civil rights, and filing a false police report.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners remain committed to identifying and prosecuting corrupt police officers who violate the civil rights of our people,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “We will continue to aggressively pursue these cases, and we are grateful to our counterparts at the FBI, the Paterson Police Department and the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, for their dedicated assistance on this investigation.”
“The FBI has a long history of standing with and assisting our fellow law enforcement officers,” Gregory W. Ehrie, FBI Special Agent in Charge in Newark, said. “When a police department finds rogue officers who violate civil rights, we will answer the call to help rid that department of anyone who tarnishes the badge they wear.”
According to documents filed in this and other cases and statements made in court:
Toledo, along with other Paterson police officers, including Eudy Ramos, Jonathan Bustios, Daniel Pent, Matthew Torres, and others, stopped and searched motor vehicles, without any justification, and stole cash and other items from the occupants. Toledo and the other officers also stopped and searched individuals on the streets of Paterson, and illegally took their money. Toledo and other officers arrested individuals in Paterson, took cash from them, and split it among themselves. To cover up their criminal activity, Toledo and his fellow officers then filed false police reports. For example, on Dec. 2, 2017, Toledo and Ramos stopped and arrested an individual in Paterson and stole approximately $1,000, which they split. Toledo and Ramos then filed a false police report omitting that they had stolen $1,000 from the arrestee.
Toledo communicated via text message with his conspirators regarding their illegal activity. In one text message, on Nov. 16, 2017, Toledo wrote to Bustios, “everything we do is illegal.” In another, Bustios sent Toledo a text message with an animated talking pig that said, “I’m tryin’ to go mango hunting. Let’s goooo.” Toledo replied with an address and wrote “meet me here,” telling Bustios to meet him at a location where they could look to illegally seize “mangos,” a code word for cash.
While on official duty, Toledo also routinely used unreasonable and excessive force in his encounters with individuals in Paterson, causing them bodily harm. For instance, in three incidents in 2017:
• Toledo chased and apprehended a juvenile, pushed the juvenile to the ground, and punched the juvenile several times. Toledo later told Bustios, “I’ve been borderline blacking out when I catch these n[ ]” and “I beat that n[ ] like he owed me money.” Toledo also told Bustios that when he used force on the juvenile, he “was no longer a cop.”
• Toledo and Ramos chased and tackled an individual in Paterson and struck the individual several times in the body. They then released the individual without filing charges. The incident was recorded by a third party and uploaded to YouTube. Toledo told Bustios that the individual who recorded the incident “missed the best part,” which was when Toledo “laid him out.” Toledo then said, “funny shit is that we cut him” and “didn’t even lock him up.”
• Toledo and Torres arrested an individual, handcuffed him behind his back, and placed him in the backseat of their police car. During the ride to police department headquarters, Toledo depressed the brakes on his police car in order to force the individual to slam his body and head against the divider in the backseat of the police car, a tactic known as “brake-checking.” Toledo recorded the incident on his cell phone and sent it to others.
The conspiracy to violate civil rights and the deprivation of civil rights charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The false records count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for each count is $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 22, 2019.
Bustios pleaded guilty in December 2018 to conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights and to extortion under color of official right. Torres pleaded guilty in May 2019 to conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights and to filing a false police report. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9, 2019.
Ramos was indicted in a nine-count indictment with conspiring to deprive individuals of their civils rights, depriving individuals of their civil rights, and filing false police reports. His case is pending before Judge Hayden. Daniel Pent was previously charged by complaint with conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights. His case, too, is pending. The charges and allegations against them are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, the Paterson Police Department, under the direction of Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale and Police Chief Troy Oswald, and the Paterson Police Department Office of Internal Affairs, for their assistance in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.
Defense counsel: Dennis S. Cleary Esq., West Orange, New Jersey