Officials believe this is not the first time the man has done this – they claim it’s the 14th time.
The 48-year-old Frostproof man was arrested Thursday after deputies claim he pulled up to a traffic crash involving a vehicle and some livestock.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office claim that they were investigating the scene in the area of Collany Lane and U.S. 27 when the man pulled up in a Ford Crown Victoria, activated a set of emergency lights, got out of the car and offered to help deputies.
The deputies apparently declined the offer, and the man got back into his car and drove north on U.S. 27 with the lights still activated.
Another vehicle then drove up and the people inside identified themselves as deputies with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office. They said the man was wanted for impersonating a law enforcement officer in their county, and they had been following him when he stopped at the crash site.
The man returned to the crash scene, emergency lights still flashing, as additional deputies arrived to assist. The man allegedly stopped near one of the patrol cars and spoke to a deputy, and then he pulled out a wallet that had a gold Private Investigator badge inside with “Chief” engraved on it.
Deputies allege the man presented the badge and identified himself as a Fugitive Recovery Agent. The wallet apparently contained several other cards identifying him as a private investigator, a “law enforcement detective,” a member of veteran’s groups and a member of the clergy. Another card identified him as a retired Major in the Marine Corps.
Deputies claim the man’s vehicle was equipped with a front push bar, emergency lights in the front and rear windows, a prisoner cage, caging over the rear windows, a spotlight and a scanner.
When deputies asked about his identification cards, the man allegedly first said he was a licensed private investigator in South Carolina, then later said he never claimed to be any of the things indicated on the cards. He also said he had never been a major in the military.
The man was arrested on charges of committing criminal actions under color of law to hinder a public officer’s duties, impersonation of a bail bondsman and driving with a suspended or revoked license.
He is also facing charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer and illegal use of police insignia out of Highlands County.
Deputies believe the man has been charged 13 times for impersonating a law enforcement officer in several states in the Southeast, including a 2010 incident where he was arrested at a Dunedin Publix after shoplifting candy and sticker books.
Police also claim the man is a registered sexual offender, and was convicted of a sex offense in South Carolina in 1992.
According to Florida law, falsely impersonating a police officer occurs when a person:
- Falsely assumes or pretends to be a law enforcement officer; AND
- Takes it upon himself or herself to act as a law enforcement officer
This crime is classified as a third-degree felony. If convicted of this offense, the following penalties can be imposed:
- Up to five years in prison.
- Up to five years of probation.
- Up to $5,000 in fines.