Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Federal Grand Jury Indicts POLA Police Chief

By Mark Edward Nero

On April 30, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted the chief of police for the Port of Los Angeles on corruption and tax charges. The corruption charges in the indictment relate to an alleged scheme in which authorities say the chief stood to financially benefit from the development of a social networking program that would become the official smartphone app for the port and would then be marketed to other law enforcement agencies.

Port Police Chief Ronald Jerome Boyd, 57, had just been named to his position at the port in January. He is now charged in a 16-count indictment that accuses him of corruption, lying to FBI agents, failing to file federal corporate tax returns for a private security company he created, and tax evasion.

At the center of the case are four wire fraud charges that accuse Boyd of executing “a scheme to defraud the citizens of the City of Los Angeles and the Harbor Department … by means of bribery and kickbacks, materially false and fraudulent pretenses and representations, and the concealment of material facts,” according to the indictment.

The corruption scheme centers on a program called Portwatch, which was developed to provide information to the public and to allow citizens to report criminal activity at the port.

In 2011, Boyd and two business partners formed BDB Digital Communications, a company that entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the unnamed company developing Portwatch. The parties involved with BDB intended to generate revenues by marketing and selling a similar app – called Metrowatch – to other government agencies.

“Under the terms of this agreement, defendant Boyd would receive approximately 13.33 percent of all gross revenues generated by the sale of the Metrowatch application throughout the United States,” according to the indictment.

The revenue-sharing agreement was contingent upon Boyd’s assistance in securing the Portwatch contract for the unnamed company. Over the course of a year beginning in October 2011, Boyd took steps to benefit the unnamed company with respect to the Portwatch contract. The indictment alleges that his actions included hosting a private meeting with the unnamed company for the purpose of disclosing confidential information, meeting with Los Angeles officials that included the city attorney and the mayor and editing the scope of work for the Portwatch contract so that he could personally monitor the app’s development.

The indictment goes on to allege that Boyd lied to the investigators in October 2014 when he was interviewed by FBI special agents about the matter.

If he is convicted of all 16 counts in the indictment, Boyd would face a statutory maximum sentence of 124 years in federal prison. According to the US Attorney’s Office, Boyd is expected to surrender to federal authorities this week.

Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka said Boyd was being put on administrative leave until further notice.

“Deputy Chief of Port Police Thomas Gazsi will assume Boyd’s responsibilities,” Seroka said. “The City and Port of Los Angeles will fully cooperate in the investigation of this matter.”