Charges against a Bluffton man suspected of posing as a bail bondsman to con Latinos have been dismissed, and the accused plans to seek compensation.
Henry Roldan, who was charged by Hardeeville police with two misdemeanor counts of obtaining goods under false pretenses last year, intends to file a lawsuit against the department for damaging his reputation, according to his attorney, Hector Esquivel.
Hardeeville Municipal Court Chief Judge John Carroll voided the charges against Roldan in November after a meeting with arresting officer Lt. Arnold Middleton.
Roldan was arrested in Hardeeville in August 2011 after accusations that undocumented immigrants paid him bail to get relatives out of jail. Hardeeville police said Roldan targeted Latinos in Jasper and Beaufort counties by pocketing some or all of the cash -- and said he could have conned hundreds of undocumented immigrants of as much as $100,000 over the past five years.
However, only two people agreed to work with police to pursue charges.
Their names were at first redacted from police reports. When Esquivel challenged the omission, Carroll refused to order police to release the names.
Esquivel appealed the decision in Circuit Court on the grounds that the redaction violated Roldan's Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers. Last December, Judge Carmen Mullen sided with Esquivel, ruling that he and his client had the right to know the accusers' identities, no matter their legal residency status.
Roldan requested a jury trial last year and filed a motion for a speedy trial in March. In October, he requested a speedy trial or for the charges against him to be dropped.
"(Roldan's) name was dragged through the mud pretty extensively, and we still have not seen any evidence of these hundreds of thousands of dollars he is accused of taking," Esquivel said. "His reputation took a huge hit in the community."
Roldan, a local translator, had a long history of helping Latinos and would sometimes act as an intermediary for families with relatives behind bars, Esquivel said.
Hardeeville Police Chief Richard Nagy defended the integrity of the police investigation and the evidence used to file charges. He said Mullen's order that the names of the witnesses be disclosed was a "variable in the equation" to dismiss the case. He declined to comment further on the case because of the expected litigation.
"Those victims came to us for help, and we responded accordingly," Nagy said, calling it "a shame" that undocumented immigrants are often too fearful of deportation to report a crime.
Attempts to reach Carroll for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The lawsuit against the Hardeeville Police Department has not been filed.