Crime & Courts

Ex-Wichita police officer charged with conspiracy, wire fraud

A former Wichita police officer and two other people were charged Wednesday with conspiracy and wire fraud after an internal investigation by police concluded that they were involved in scheme to keep the officer from losing her job, according to U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom. . The police department submitted the results of its investigation to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for review.

Former officer Joletta Vallejo, 34, and her friends, Patrick Melendrez, 40, Wichita, and Courtney Foster, 30, Wichita, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud.

The indictment alleges that on Oct. 16, 2011, a woman went to the Patrol North substation in Wichita to report that she had been abducted and beaten by her boyfriend, Larry Edmonds. Vallejo took the report and opened a case of misdemeanor domestic violence.

During the same evening, the indictment says another man called the police department’s case desk, a 24-hour service for the public to report crimes that do not require an officer’s presence to make an arrest or collect evidence.

The man said Edmonds, the suspect in the abduction and beating, had robbed him and stolen his car. The man was told to report the crime to a police officer. When the man went to Patrol North to report the car theft, Vallejo refused to take the report and told him to call the case desk.

Edmonds was ultimately arrested, charged and convicted in Sedgwick County District Court on felony charges of aggravated kidnapping, robbery and attempted first-degree murder. The police department’s professional standards bureau investigated Vallejo’s handling of the initial reports and concluded that she violated departmental policies and regulations.

The indictment alleges that on Aug. 22, 2012, Vallejo knew she was going to be fired. She arranged for co-defendant Patrick Melendrez, to make a call to the man who tried to report the car theft. Melendrez offered to pay the man to change his statements to the police department’s professional standards bureau.

Melendrez said he would pay the man $150 to change his statement to make it less likely Vallejo would lose her job – and another $150 if Vallejo was able to keep her job. Then Vallejo, Melendrez and co-defendant Courtney Foster drove to an ATM where Vallejo got cash for Melendrez to pay the bribe.

Melendrez set up a meeting to pay the man to change his statements. Melendrez took a tape recorder to the meeting that Vallejo had given him so he could record the man’s call to police changing his statement. Co-defendant Foster gave Melendrez a ride to the meeting and waited across the street during the meeting.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.