BSO breath alcohol technician indicted on fraud charges

More than 100 DUI cases in jeopardy

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - More than 100 pending DUI cases are in jeopardy after a Broward Sheriff's Office breath alcohol technician was indicted on a slew of felony charges.

Celia Cromer, who is responsible for administering the Breathalyzer tests for the agency, is facing several charges, including identity theft and defrauding the federal government with bogus tax returns.

Private attorney Bill Gelin said many of the cases will be thrown out as a result.

"Her credibility is now completely shot," Gelin said.

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Cromer, while moonlighting for a fraudulent tax preparation company called Family Free Taxes, bought the personal identification information of 10 people from an undercover federal agent, according to the indictment.

The owner of the company, Tameka Walker, and a woman named Maritynque Cromer, relation to Celia Cromer unknown, were also indicted.

A fourth co-defendant, Marlin Mejia, was an employee of Palmetto General Hospital, where, according to federal prosecutors, she stole patients' personal identification information to further the fraud.

"Every case where that witness was involved, they are going to have to proceed without the Breathalyzer," public defender Howard Finkelstein said. "The Breathalyzer is the single most important evidence, in fact, in many cases the only evidence the jury cares about."

Finkelstein, whose office is handling 45 of the more than 100 cases in question, said the state is going to have to throw out the Breathalyzer tests in those cases.

"I believe of those 45 cases, the lion's share will be dismissed," Finkelstein said.

The state attorney's office is now notifying all of the DUI defendants of Cromer's indictment and sorting out which cases can go forward without her.

"For those people that think that drunk driving is a serious crime, and that's most of us, this is not good for the citizens of Broward County," Finkelstein said.

Cromer faces 20 felony counts. If convicted, she could face more than 50 years in prison.

The BSO said Cromer, whose public salary was $45,000, has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of her criminal case.

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