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Florida Traffic Cop Convicted Of Shaking Down Drivers
Florida jury convicts Miami-Dade detective of stealing from drivers during traffic stops.

Kostopoulos Taurus pulled over
The tables turned on Miami-Dade, Florida Police Detective William Kostopoulos earlier this month as a jury found him guilty of pocketing money taken from drivers during traffic stops. According to evidence presented at trial, Kostopoulos, a member of the department's auto theft unit, specifically targeted illegal aliens, knowing that they would be hesitant to report the roadside theft.

That expectation unraveled on September 13, 2013 as Hugo Gomez was driving north on 2nd Avenue in Homestead. An unmarked gray Ford Taurus came up behind him with flashing red and blue lights. Gomez pulled over, and Kostopoulos showed up at his window wearing a badge around his neck, asking for license and insurance. As an illegal alien, Gomez had no license. Kostopoulos ordered him out of the car and conducted a pat down search. Kostopoulos proceeded to take Gomez's wallet, later returning it with $130 in cash missing.

Instead of hiding, Gomez called the Homestead Police Department a month after the incident. He clearly described Kostopoulos and the Taurus to investigating officers who were skeptical at first, but the overall credibility of what Gomez was saying soared when a second victim came forward that day, complaining about being pulled over by a police officer in a Taurus on West Mowry Drive. This victim lost $300. An additional witness provided the first three numbers on the license plate of the unmarked Taurus, 117. Within a few hours, the order went out to Homestead officers to pull that Taurus over.

That evening, Homestead officers stopped Kostopoulos, and while the Miami-Dade officer waited, Gomez was brought to the scene to make a positive identification. The Taurus was impounded and Kostopoulos was taken into custody on suspicion of armed robbery. The case was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which pursued it as a civil rights violation.

"The defendant abused the power granted to him as a law enforcement officer to prey upon unsuspecting motorists for personal gain and then lied about his criminal actions to investigating detectives," Acting Assistant Attorney General Thomas Wheeler said in a statement. "He violated not only the law, but also the public trust."

US District U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke set an April 19 date for sentencing.

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