A Miami police officer surrendered to FBI officials Monday on charges that he took cash payments from an illegal sports betting operation in Liberty City in exchange for protection services.
The officer, a patrolman named Jerry Sutherland, was charged with two counts of extortion under the Hobbs Act.
The crimes carry a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison each.
According to an FBI press release, Sutherland was charged by information rather than indictment.
This is usually a sign that he is cooperating with investigators in the investigation, though his lawyers have not released any details about the case.
They did, however, say that they were happy with the $50,000 bond that Sutherland was granted in Miami federal court.
Police Chief “Disappointed” By Officer
The charges prompted a statement from Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes, who said that the alleged crimes should not be taken as an indictment of the entire police department.
“I am disappointed and disheartened that Officer Jerry Sutherland has been arrested today by the FBI,” Llanes said in the statement. “The Miami Police Department’s Internal Affairs Section has assisted the FBI from the beginning of this investigation. Let me make it clear that we take these allegations very seriously.”
“The allegations surrounding Mr. Sutherland are in no way a reflection of the hard working men and women of the Miami Police Department,” Llanes added.
According to a press release from the FBI, Sutherland is alleged to have agreed to protect the sports betting ring “on or around January 28, 2014.” It further alleges that Sutherland “facilitated the theft of proceeds from an illegal gambling operation in exchange for the receipt of cash payments” last July.
No information was provided on the gambling ring that Sutherland was supposedly protecting.
Sutherland, 28, has been a member of the Miami Police Department since shortly after graduating from high school.
He also once attempted to run for a City Commission seat in 2010, but fell short in his effort.
Miami Police Department No Stranger to Sports Betting Controversies, Officer Misconduct
The case is just one of several related to sports betting and misconduct by officers that have recently surfaced in the Miami Police Department.
In 2013, a major sports betting protection racket was busted, ending the careers of about ten Miami police officers who were fired, resigned, or were convicted of crimes in relation to the betting ring that was based out of a local barber shop.
That case was apparently unrelated to the Sutherland arrest.
In a separate case, three Miami police officers and two aids were suspended after being suspected of taking kickbacks from towing companies.
According to the allegations, Officers Michael Bode, Artice Peoples and Julio Ruiz were directing tow truck companies to traffic accidents rather than using the companies that had contracts with the city of Miami, and collected payments from providing the information.
More recently, that investigation has expanded by the FBI to look into other officers in the Miami-Dade Police Department and other agencies.
There are suspicions that the scheme went beyond kickbacks to offers and also involved auto body shops that overstated the damage to vehicles in order to boost the value of insurance claims.
Sutherland’s arraignment is scheduled to take place on February 13.