JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After four indictments charging 13 people, including a Jacksonville police officer, with various federal criminal offenses related to organized crime were unsealed Thursday, News4Jax has been digging deeper into how the alleged conspiracy unfolded.
Prosecutors said the conspiracy, uncovered as part of Operation Thunderstruck, started when, after having multiple dealings with two of the co-conspirators, an undercover officer was asked to turn over his ID and Social Security number, apparently so they could check him out.
One of the accused conspirators, Manuel Rodriguez, then turned that information over to Officer Michael Rounsville at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Rounsville, 46, allegedly ran the undercover agent's information through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, a former JSO officer, said that's where the accused conspirators made a mistake, because access to the NCIC is tracked.
"When the police officer ran that name, it shows in the system that he did run it, and any other police officer in the state of Florida that would run that name," Smith said. "So now that agent knows which name was run (that he gave to the conspirator), so he'll go back and just put that name in, whatever name that is, and it will show every police officer that ran that name. So that's how they were about to find out which police officer was involved."
According to the indictment, the undercover agent was investigating money laundering that involved the purchase of cars from a Westside dealership and wire transfers to various banks. The indictment said the conspirators laundered money by depositing it in multiple bank accounts with deposits all under $10,000, which is the threshold for reporting transactions directly to the Internal Revenue Service.
Rounsville's case is only one of many in the last dozen years where JSO employees have wound up in hot water.
News4Jax found dozens of different cases, dating back to 2003, that were covered by Channel 4 -- everything from retired corrections officer Leon Brooks Jr.'s arrest for distributing child porn in 2013 to Kenitra Casper providing photos of undercover narcotics officers to drug dealers in 2011.
FOP president Steve Amos said cases like these sadden the order, but that the vast majority of officers are good cops.
"Anytime you have that number of Internal Affairs complaints over a 10-year period, it seems like a lot to the general public," Amos said. "You're looking at over 1,400 to 1,500 officers, (so) that's (actually) a very small percentage of them. But people are going to get complained on when you're doing your job. There's people that don't understand what you do, and they'll take that complaint, and sometimes the complaints are valid, as you can see, in the report that you have."
Amos said it will be incumbent on prosecutors to prove that Rounsville conducted the NCIC background check for the criminal conspiracy with criminal intent, and not believing it was just a complaint on behalf of a local business owner who Rounsville didn't know was involved in a conspiracy.
Rounsville was arrested Thursday morning on a charge of unauthorized computer access by members of the JSO Integrity/Special Investigations unit. He was processed and released on bond.
Rounsville faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released a statement saying Rounsville, a 16-year veteran, is on voluntary leave without pay, pending termination by Sheriff John Rutherford.
"We have been a part of this investigation since its inception," said Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt. "Obviously, when it was discovered that one of our officers may be involved, I was disappointed. We diligently pursue all allegations of wrongdoing by any member of this agency, and when founded these individuals are held completely accountable. We must hold ourselves to the highest of standards, and will."
Rutherford said he's highly disappointed in the news and said the officer will be fired as quickly as possible.
"We have two processes that we have to go through," Rutherford said. "All I can say is that we assisted in the investigation. We believe in holding everybody accountable obviously, and the officer could be held accountable."
The other 12 people were indicted on various charges including narcotics trafficking, conspiracy to commit money laundering and failure to file Internal Revenue Service forms.
Also charged are Hedar Khlaf, Manuel Rodriguez, Mollie Bass, Diane Harrison, Erick Estrada-Lopez, Bruce Childs, Christian Magliano, John Amell, Ilia Mato, Vladimir Adunts, Justin Downing and Evan Rajta.
According to court documents, between May 2012 and Jan. 28, 2013, multiple individuals conspired to conduct financial transactions with proceeds represented by an undercover agent to be from the distribution of ecstasy.
As part of the conspiracy, a vehicle was purchased from a car dealership co-owned by Khlaf without filing an IRS Form 8300. An employee who worked at the dealership denied the accusation and said that a former employee of the business acted as a private seller to a buyer and that person committed the crime.
Wire transfers from bank accounts used in the transaction were structured to avoid triggering the filing of a Currency Transaction Report.
In furtherance of the conspiracy, Rounsville exceeded his authorized access to the NCIC database by performing a criminal history check on the undercover agent.
The indictment also alleges that in January 2013, several of the individuals indicted conspired to distribute marijuana.
Amell, Mato, Adunts, and Downing have each been charged with conspiracy to transmit wagering information related to Internet gambling, and Rajta has been charged with laundering funds represented to be proceeds from the distribution of marijuana.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service -- Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office; the Washoe County (Nevada) Sheriff's Office; and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
This investigation, is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, which was established in 1982 to mount a comprehensive attack against organized drug traffickers. Today, the OCDETF Program is the centerpiece of the attorney general's drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, money laundering organizations, and related criminal enterprises.