HIALEAH, Fla. – Who is Martcello Strovanov? Officer Ernesto Arias-Martinez reported Strovanov, who was born on Aug. 23, 1969, was driving a 2014 Ford truck with Florida tag 352TJX in Hialeah, records show.
Aurelio Echevarria, the registered owner of the truck, told officers he didn’t know Strovanov. According to Detective Paulina Whitney, Arias-Martinez issued Strovanov five citations on Feb. 21, 2020.
After an investigation stemming from similar incongruencies in traffic cases, Whitney reported the truck exists, but Strovanov doesn’t. Arias-Martinez is accused of writing fiction.
“There are no identities under that name.”
According to Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velázquez, two of his officers, Arias-Martinez and Armando Perez, who both serve as traffic motormen in Hialeah, surrendered on Wednesday. They walked out of Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center hours later.
Arias-Martinez, 23, and Perez, 40, are facing criminal charges in Miami-Dade County for allegedly writing false tickets, according to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle,
Fernandez Rundle released a statement saying the police department deserves credit for working diligently to uncover and correct the actions.
“When police officers create false traffic tickets, as we are alleging happened here, they damage the reputation of their own department and the reputations of every police officer working to serve our Miami-Dade community,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Mailers from traffic defense attorneys helped the victims to find out they or their vehicles had been the target of traffic citations, records show.
According to Velázquez, the complaints prompted the department’s internal affairs unit to audit the officers’ activities from Jan. 1 to June 8, 2020. Perez has served five years with the department and Arias-Martinez for about three years and six months.
According to Whitney, in several cases, the officers didn’t conduct a traffic stop, or there was a traffic stop but the driver didn’t receive a citation, records show.
Perez is accused of using a state database to connect Florida license plates to the driver’s license information, records show.
Carlos Rodriguez, one of the alleged victims, said the officers stopped him but they didn’t issue any citations, records show. Rodriguez said he was surprised to later learn Perez had issued him 18 citations on Feb. 13, 2020. He also faced six others citations the following day.
“We are alleging that their actions were not errors or mistakes, but crimes,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Prosecutors are charging Perez with five counts of official misconduct, a third-degree felony, and five counts of falsifying public records, a first-degree misdemeanor. Arias-Martinez is facing four counts of official misconduct and four counts of falsifying public records.
Local 10 News Assignment Desk Editor Guadalupe Monarrez contributed to this report.