Florida Highway Patrol Trooper David Casillas was arrested on February 28 for allegedly helping his friend Jesus Del Valle hide a hit-and-run crash that severely injured gardener Yoel Montero. Casillas, 35, faces charges for official misconduct, filing a false insurance claim, and organized fraud.
According to the arrest report, the alleged hit-and-run crash occurred on June 30 last year. A SUV sideswiped a gardening crew that was working on 62nd Street in Miami Beach and severely injured Montero, who was working there at the time. He suffered a serious head injury and acutely damaged his right leg. Witnesses identified the SUV as a 2015 Range Rover.
The Range Rover never stopped, even though the vehicle’s passenger-side mirror was ripped off during the crash, sources allege. That detail led investigators to Del Valle—replacement mirrors for the Land Rover model involved in the crash can only be bought directly from the manufacturer.
Investigators learned that only one passenger-side mirror was sold in the weeks following the crash—to Ariel Perera, a mechanic and friend of Del Valle’s who purportedly repaired the dentist’s damaged Range Rover.
Further investigation revealed that Del Valle had filed an insurance claim for his vehicle. Prosecutors allege that Del Valle asked Casillas to write him a bogus report that said his SUV was damaged after he hit a palm tree seven days after the crash that injured Montero, and miles away from Miami Beach. When questioned by investigators, Casillas allegedly admitted that Del Valle told him the crash occurred in Miami Beach.
Del Valle was also arrested as part of the investigation. Investigators say cellphone records placed him at the scene of the crash. His mechanic friend, Perera, is also reportedly facing charges but he has not yet been arrested.
Perera reportedly admitted to overcharging the dentist’s insurance company. He also allegedly charged the insurance company for replacement parts he never used. News sources did not name attorneys for either Perera or Del Valle.
“Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing one of our troopers was arrested as a result of this investigation,” said FHP lieutenant Yosdany Veloz in a statement to the press. Casillas was fired by the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) in January. It is not clear how Casillas, Del Valle, and Perera know each other.
Under Florida law, drivers involved in an accident must stop. Leaving the scene of the accident is a crime. A hit-and-run crash involving an injury is considered third degree felony with a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines. The driver may also have their license revoked and be required to pay restitution to the injured party.
Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County are the top three counties in the state for hit-and-run car accidents. The number of hit-and-run crashes has risen by over 35% in the past three years. In 2016, more than 99,000 hit-and-run crashes were reported, up from less than 77,000 in 2013.