Public auctions happen all the time. Many cities sell off unused or unneeded property like vehicles. But FOX 5 has discovered that’s not how things work in the small Maryland city of New Carrollton.
Billy Qudah worked as a New Carrollton police officer from 2006 to 2009. He says he often noticed impounded vehicles parked behind the police station. “Some vehicles would be in the back for some reason or another.”
A four door black Acura caught his eye back in 2008. So, he says he approached his boss, Police Chief David Rice. “He told me if I wanted the vehicle it was going to cost me $2000,” says Qudah. “He asked for cash.”
Qudah says he paid the money and got a title a day later, listed under New Carrollton, but no other paperwork. “Chief Rice advised me that it wasn’t necessary.”
Qudah’s nephew, Yazeed Alanani, in the car business himself, says he also talked with Chief Rice several times about buying vehicles.
(FOX 5 Producer) “You had looked at other cars before?”
(FOX 5 Producer) “And where did you look at those cars?”
(Alanani) “In the station.”
Around the same time Qudah got the Acura, Alanani says he bought a BMW and an Isuzu from Chief Rice. “The first thing he asked for was $6000. Cash,” says Alanani. But he says they settled on $4000 for both cars. “I gave him in the back, not in the office, in the back of the parking lot. My friend was in the car, I counted the money with him."
Three vehicles sold in the parking lot for a total of $6000, according to Qudah and Alanani.
Questions about selling vehicles have come up with Chief Rice before, at a city council meeting in October 2008.
(Council Member) “How did you sell them? I thought we had to have a public notification before selling them.”
(Chief Rice) “No, um. Public notification, this was before the big thing of, uh, trying to get them auctioned off. You know we had them back there.”
And when asked about those three vehicles sold to Qudah and Alanani –
(Council Member) “That was $2100 we got for three vehicles you had to get rid of?”
(Chief Rice) “Correct."
FOX 5 put in a Freedom of Information Act request to the city of New Carrollton to find out just how many impounded vehicles have been sold. We got three receipts with no dates on them, showing three cars sold only to Billy Qudah. The receipts were for an Acura, Isuzu and BMW totaling $2000.
We showed the documents to Qudah and his nephew. “I know I paid $2000 dollars for one vehicle and the other two vehicles were sold for $4000. So, this is totally false," says Qudah.
We wanted to know why there was such a difference. So, we caught up with Chief Rice at the City Municipal Center.
(Umeh) “What happened to the money?”
(Chief Rice) “The money is simple. It’s $2000, is all that was paid for the cars. That’s all.”
(Umeh) “So, these people are making up the extra amount?”
(Chief Rice) “Absolutely.”
Chief Rice stands firm he didn’t pocket any money and that he was given permission to sell only those three vehicles by the City Administrator.
But FOX 5 has found there are others. In June 2007 neighboring Riverdale Park Police Department agreed to sell six of its cars to New Carrollton Police at discounted prices. We obtained the bills of sale for the Ford Crown Vics.
According to the documents New Carrollton paid for the vehicles with a $2500 check and $5500 dollars in cash.
But not all of the vehicles ended up being used by New Carrollton Police. We discovered after those cars were bought; only one ended up being titled and registered for “Government Use”. A Carfax search shows the other five police cars registered as “Commercial Vehicles” ten days after being sold to New Carrollton Police Department.
So, what happened to them? FOX 5 found they were sold to the largest cab company in Prince George’s County, Silver Cab. The owner told us he bought them from Chief Rice, paying with two different checks.
We asked Chief Rice to provide any documentation showing what happened to those used police cars and any money made from selling them. But he said he couldn’t comment further due to pending litigation against him.
Billy Qudah isn’t the only former officer speaking out about his boss. “There is deception on the part of New Carrollton City Police Department, absolutely."
Chief Rice, along with Mayor Andrew Hanko and City Administrator Mike Downes are being sued by four other officers. They say they lost their jobs after they exposed wrongdoing inside the police department.
Chief Rice told us, “It’s all going to come out when the civil trial comes to a head. And that's when I want Channel 5 to be there because then you can hear the whole story for yourself and put all this to rest finally."
Some of these accusations have landed Chief Rice in hot water before. In late 2008, he was placed on Administrative Leave for just over a month, pending investigations by the Maryland State Police and FBI. No charges were ever filed.
As for selling vehicles, when FOX 5 first started asking questions we were told New Carrollton did not have a specific policy about how to do it. But, we got an email from the City Administrator saying a new policy had been adopted.
Email response from New Carrollton Police Chief David Rice:
On or about August 2008 several officers of the New Carrollton Police Department
made allegations that vehicles impounded by New Carrollton Police Officers had been
improperly disposed of. As a result of those allegations independent criminal
investigations were conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Maryland State
Police and an internal review was conducted by City Administrator for the City of New
Carrollton. During the course of those investigations information was provided by me
showing that with the knowledge and consent of the City Administration certain
impounded vehicle had been sold. All of the investigations of this and many other
allegations made by those officers have been completed and no criminal wrongdoing was
Approved for release
Colonel David G. Rice
Chief of Police
Email response from City Administrator Mike Downes to FOX 5 Producer:
From: J. Michael Downes [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 1:48 PM
To: Rick Yarborough
Subject: RE: FOX 5 request
I have decided to give a brief response:
On the matter of the sale of impounded vehicles, which is over two years old and which has been investigated by State and Federal agencies in addition to the city, permission was granted by me for the sale of 3 vehicles for a total of $2,000. I’m sure that you remember the game, “Rock, Paper, Scissors” – in this case, paper (receipts) trumps words (accusations). I suggest you turn your investigation (?) to the people who have contacted you regarding this matter. What part of “exonerated” and “no criminal findings” don’t they understand?
On the matter of my take home vehicle, the 30 mile limit is a police department policy to which an exception has been made in my case. I reside 36 miles from New Carrollton, as the crow flies. I can’t think of a City Administrator or City Manager who is not assigned a take home vehicle. Once again, I suggest you take a hard look at the complainants.
I offer one more thing: Now that FOX 5 News has added Randy Sutton to its staff, you have reached that journalistic pinnacle along side the tabloids that occupy the supermarket checkout counters!
Get a job!
New city policy provided by City Administrator Mike Downes: September 3, 2010
City of New Carrollton Policy for the Sale or Disposal of City Property
BACKGROUND: I. City Charter Section C-1 Incorporation General Powers provides, the
“City of New Carrollton . . . may purchase and hold real, personal and mixed property for municipal purposes, sell and dispose of the same for the benefit of said City”
POLICY: II. City Code Chapter 27 Purchasing and Contracts, Section 13 Surplus, Obsolete and Waste Materials provides:
A. All departments shall submit to the Mayor, at such times and in such form as he or she may prescribe, reports showing stocks of all supplies which are no longer used or which have become obsolete, worn out or scrapped.
B. The Mayor shall have authority to sell all such supplies which cannot be used by any department or which have become unsuitable for city use or to exchange or trade in such articles in part or in full payment for new supplies.