2/2/2017Ohio Cop Busted For Ripping Off Motorists
Cop busted for stealing towing fees from speed trap town of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
A Cleveland Heights, Ohio police officer admitted on Tuesday that he stole the fees motorists paid to have their vehicles released from impound. Lamont Darden, 30, entered a guilty plea to felony charges of theft in office and evidence tampering at a hearing before the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland.
Earlier this year Darden was caught collecting money from motorists looking to have their cars released from the police department's impound lot. The owner would hand over between $125 and $210 in cash, and Darden would fill out a vehicle release form and hand a copy to the driver. Darden would then throw away his copy of the form and keep the money for himself. The scheme continued for about two months until discrepancies in the towing records were noticed. A vehicle that had been grabbed from Cedar Road on May 25 was declared missing during on an August inventory of the impound lot. There was no entry showing the car had been released.
Cleveland Heights Detective Michael G. Reese obtained a warrant to search Darden's work locker and home. The detective also checked the financial records for the towing program and found more than a dozen instances where the release fees went missing, despite Darden's best efforts to cover his tracks. In light of the evidence against him, Darden opted not to go to trial on the theft charges.
Cleveland Heights is notorious for its aggressive parking ticket program which generated $523,218 in revenue in 2015, almost enough to cover the police department's capital expense needs for the year. Officers collected another $1.3 million in speeding tickets.
"I lived in Cleveland Heights for a little over the year, and the Cleveland Heights Police Department is one of the reasons I decided to leave," one Yelp reviewer commented. "They're more concerned with being meter maids than actually preventing crime."
The National Motorists Association ranks Cleveland Heights as number six on its list of worst Ohio speed traps on the National Speedtrap Exchange. Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula ordered Darden to pay $2823 in restitution and set a sentencing hearing for March 8. He faces up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.