A D.C. police officer and a Maryland woman have been indicted for a scheme in which the officer is accused of giving out identifying information of traffic crash victims in exchange for cash payments.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said Officer Vincent Forrest, 33, of Stafford, Virginia, and Raquel Depaula, 43, of Beltsville, Maryland, were indicted by a grand jury on one count of conspiracy and one count each of bribery. Forrest was also indicted on one count of making a false statement for lying to the FBI.
The scheme began at least as early as April 2019, a Justice Department news release said. Depaula, who worked as a “runner” who would connect people in need of legal counsel or medical services with providers, would provide payments to Forrest in exchange for confidential information from D.C. police traffic accident reports. Those reports are legally meant to remain between those involved in a traffic crash and their representation.
Forrest would send the information via WhatsApp and the two would then meet in locations around the D.C. area, including Depaula’s residence in Maryland, to complete the payment. Depaula would then provide the victim information to attorneys in the region in exchange for a referral fee. This would lead to crash victims getting calls from potential legal representation within days of the crash, which is a violation of D.C. law.
Over the course of four months, Forrest allegedly accessed around 4,000 traffic crash reports, and he and Depaula worked to hide their scheme by using encrypted messaging apps, meeting in person and dealing only in cash.
When questioned about his behavior by the FBI, Forrest denied having given the reports to any unauthorized third party.
Forrest was arrested on June 4 and he was expected to be arraigned on the indictment Friday before Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui in the U.S. District Court for D.C.
If found guilty, Forrest would face a maximum of 30 years in prison and Depaula could face up to 20 years.