SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) — A current Sweewater officer faced a judge – accused of racketeering and conspiracy.
Sgt. Reny Garcia stood before a judge in bond court Wednesday after police say Garcia and others beat suspects, stole their valuables and cars, and even waterboarded a confession from a man who wasn’t guilty.
Former Sweetwater cop William Garcia was also named in the warrant. He is now under a Virginia federal lock up on unrelated charges. Sweetwater Police Officer Octavio Oliver was also named in the new warrant. He was previously charged in part of the same probe.
Sweetwater’s current Police Chief Placido Diaz said Wednesday the arrest of Sgt. Garcia is evidence the town is cleaning its house.
“We have committed, the mayor has committed since the time he got in office, to come in here and cooperate with all agencies to make this department a better place,” Diaz said. “We’ve eliminated the high liability areas here in order to affect positive change and avoid any further problems with any of those areas.”
FDLR officials said there is no investigation of criminal wrongdoing of the current Sweetwater Police Department administration.
As for those arrested, both men Reny Garcia and William Garcia are accused of preying on the most vulnerable people in town. Reny Garcia is a sergeant with the Sweetwater Police Department. William Garcia used to be a detective with the department.
According to police, the two men are not related.
Officials with FDLE confirm the arrests are part of a larger investigation based on decades of corruption. According to investigators, members of the department engaged in racketeering activity that included battery, theft, fraud, burglary, and other violent crimes against civilians.
Those involved often specifically targeted foreign-born victims with limited knowledge of the English language and the U.S. legal system, in order to exploit the victims and conceal the officers’ unlawful activities from outside authorities.
“They took my car from my house and that had nothing to do with what they were there for,” said Lazaro Dalmauc in Spanish. “They took a lot of money I had inside my house and jewelry.”
Dalmauc said four years ago Sweetwater officers towed his Porsche using Southland the Towing Company.
Southland was later investigated by the FBI amid allegations that it had taken possession of vehicles unlawfully seized by police.
“I’m glad they’re going to jail. But my car is still missing,” said Dalmauc. “I have no idea how a car can go missing in this country.”
An attorney for Reny Garcia calls the charges trumped-up – a case federal prosecutors passed on.
“We’ll vigorously defend it. He’s innocent. He’s said he’s innocent all along and we’ll be defending the case,” said Defense Attorney Douglas Hartman.
Reny Garcia is being held without bond and William Garcia will be transported to Miami to face the new charges.
According to court documents obtained by CBS4 News, so far these are the others who have been mentioned in this investigation: Sweetwater Police Officer Octavio Oliver, William Garcia, Richard Brenner, former City Commissioner Catalina Rodriguez and Reny Garcia.
Court documents suggest more arrests may be on the way.