A federal jury convicted a former Miami-Dade police detective of stealing from drivers during traffic stops and lying to cover up his dirty work.
The legal terms for the abuse of power by William Kostopoulos, 49, are deprivation of rights under color of law and tampering with a witness. And the rights Kostopoulos deprived don’t come much bigger: His thefts violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizure of property.
In its indictment, reported by the Miami Herald in 2015, federal prosecutors claimed Kostopoulos stole money from Homestead residents in traffic stops on Sept. 13, 2013, and Oct. 11, 2013. The Oct. 11 stop was aborted when someone ran toward the car screaming, causing Kostopoulos to leave.
When Homestead police began investigating the Oct. 11 stop a day later, Kostopoulos told them he hadn’t taken any money from the driver and he didn’t notice anyone running toward the car.
Kostopoulos will be sentenced April 19. The maximum sentence is 22 years.
“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 of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “He violated not only the law, but also the public trust.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice and the FBI stand committed to holding those who betray the public trust accountable for their criminal actions, while supporting the overwhelming majority of men and women who proudly uphold their duties to serve and protect the community as law-abiding police officers,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a Justice Department statement.