Feds claim officer stole cash, property, during traffic stops

At least twice, Miami-Dade police Officer William Kostopoulos stopped motorists in Homestead for traffic violations, then stole cash and property, a federal indictment claims.

When the officer tried the alleged scheme a third time, he fled when someone ran toward him screaming. Then, according to the indictment, he compounded his issues by lying to Homestead detectives, saying he never stole money or property or fled the scene of a traffic stop.

Thursday, a federal grand jury determined Kostopoulos violated at least three motorists’ constitutional rights to be free from the unreasonable seizure of assets. The 17-year veteran has been suspended with pay and will stand trial if a settlement isn’t reached.

“To effectively carry out our sworn duty to protect the physical safety and the constitutionally granted rights of our residents, law enforcement officers need the trust and confidence of the community,” Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson said in a written statement.

“Officers who violate the tenets of this profession negatively impact this necessary bond between the public and the police, and make the jobs of the honorable and professional officers more difficult.”

John Rivera, who represents Kostopoulos as president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the officer is the rare cop accused of abusing his position. Most cops, Rivera said, serve the public well.

“When we do find a bad apple, we arrest them. We want them off the street as much as you do,” Rivera said.

The case against Kostopoulos, 47, which was investigated by Homestead police and the FBI, claims the officer tried to cover up his actions through misleading statements when questioned in Homestead.

According to the indictment, all three incidents took place in Homestead. The first in March 2011, the second in September 2013 and the last in October 2013. In all three instances, investigators say Kostopoulos stopped cars for a traffic infraction, then demanded money and property.

He collected in the first two stops, according to the federal indictment, but was thwarted the third time.

An “eyewitness interrupted defendant William Kostopoulos’ traffic stop, of SG [the alleged victim’s initials], by running toward defendant William Kostopoulos, and screaming,” the indictment alleges.

Miami Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.