A now-former Paterson police officer is headed to federal prison for at least 2½ years after admitting Tuesday that he beat and robbed suspects as well as ordinary citizens.
Frank Toledo, 30, is one of seven rogue officers that the U.S. government has recently helped the city police department remove from its ranks, authorities in Paterson said.
Toledo pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Newark to conspiring to violate citizens’ civil rights in the Silk City as part of a deal with federal prosecutors that will bring him a shorter prison sentence than if he’d been convicted at a trial.
He faces 30 to 37 months behind bars -- all of which he must serve, because there's no parole in the federal prison system.
Toledo admitted that he and other police officers:
- stopped and searched vehicles without justification;
- stole cash and valuables from occupants;
- stopped and searched citizens on the street and took their money;
- took cash from people they arrested;
- filed false reports to cover up their wrongdoing.
Others who participated included Officers Eudy Ramos, Jonathan Bustios, Daniel Pent and Matthew Torres, said U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
In one instance, Toledo admitted, he and Ramos took $1,000 that they split from a defendant they’d arrested, then filed a report that didn’t mention the money.
The accomplices often communicated via text messages.
“Everything we do is illegal," Toledo once texted Bustios, Carpenito said.
They also used code words – including “mangos,” which meant cash, the U.S. attorney said.
Toledo also “routinely used unreasonable and excessive force” on the job, injuring people, he said.
The U.S. attorney cited 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, tackled and struck someone who hadn’t committed a crime – which someone recorded and posted to YouTube. Toledo told Bustios that the they “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 someone else, 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 – what’s known as “brake-checking.” Toledo recorded the incident on his cell phone and sent it to others.
Bustios pleaded guilty in federal court last 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.
They’re awaiting sentencing.
Ramos was charged 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 was pending.
So are the federal charges against Pent.
U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden scheduled an Oct. 22 sentencing for Toledo for his guilty pleas to conspiring to violate individuals’ civil rights, using unreasonable and excessive force in violation of individuals’ civil rights and filing a false police report.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal, the deputy chief of Carpenito’s Criminal Division, secured the plea following an investigation by the FBI.
Carpenito also thanked the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the Paterson Police Department and its Office of Internal Affairs, for their assistance.
QUOTES (Published in their entirety, as sent to Daily Voice):
U.S. ATTORNEY CRAIG CARPENITO: “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. 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.”
NJ FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE GREGORY W. EHRIE: “The FBI has a long history of standing with and assisting our fellow law enforcement officers. 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.”
PATERSON POLICE DIRECTOR JERRY SPEZIALE: “The Paterson Police Department will never tolerate or accept racism and corruption in its ranks. We identified this officer's behavior and took immediate action to investigate and cooperate with our federal law enforcement partners. I am committed to aggressively removing officers who betray the trust of the people that they serve. This officer has been terminated."
PATERSON POLICE CHIEF TROY OSWALD: “When I became Chief of the Paterson Police Department, I pledged my honor to protect and serve this community. As part of that pledge, I have been working with the FBI to clean house of anyone who violates that same oath. The public should take notice that the officers we have lost with recent prosecutions are officers who are not worth of carrying the shield for this Police Department. I will continue to work tirelessly to see that every officer working for this Department demonstrates respect for the members of this community.”
PATERSON MAYOR ANDRE SAYEGH: "This is yet another frustrating and sad day for Paterson when a police officer once trusted to protect and serve betrays those who empowered him. The behavior for which he pleaded guilty is racist and reprehensible and will not be tolerated by this Administration. This officer has been terminated and the same fate will await others who exhibit such behavior. Such conduct unfairly characterizes honorable police officers and erodes the trust between the community and the police, which is essential in cities like Paterson. The culture in the Police Department must change and I am committed to doing that. We are in the process of commissioning an independent audit of the Police Department and are including body worn cameras in this year's capital budget so that interactions with the police can be recorded. I want to thank the Public Safety Director and Police Chief for cooperating with federal authorities to help rid our Police Department of those who display such egregious, racist and corrupt behavior. There is still a lot of work ahead of us to continue restoring the trust between the community and police, and my Administration is laser focused on these efforts."
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