Police have arrested a man who they suspect was using a real Prince George's County police cruiser in a scheme to stop Hispanic people and rob them of cash.
The man is a former Bladensburg police officer with a previous charge of impersonating someone in law enforcement, said Capt. Misty Mints, the assistant public affairs commander for the Prince George's County Police Department. She said it is unclear how the man gained access to a Prince George's County police cruiser, and internal affairs investigators are questioning the officer to whom the cruiser was assigned.
Police first got wind of the scheme on Christmas Eve, when two Hispanic men reported they were stopped near Riggs Road and Adelphi Road in the Adelphi area and patted down by someone claiming to be a police officer, Mints said. The men said that man took cash from them, then let them go, Mints said.
Those men shared with investigators the number of the marked Prince George's County police cruiser the person who stopped them was driving, and investigators determined the officer who it was assigned to, Mints said. But when investigators showed the men a photo lineup that included that officer, the men said the person who patted them down was not in any of the photos.
Internal affairs officers began conducting surveillance on the cruiser, but they were unable to monitor it around the clock, Mints said. Then at about 5:25 a.m. Thursday morning, it showed up again in connection with a similar incident, she said.
This time, Mints said, a Hispanic man called police from the 2400 block of Kenilworth Avenue in the Cheverly area to report a man wearing a utility-type uniform and claiming to be an officer had pulled him over on suspicion of drunk driving and took $1,800 in cash during a pat down. The man told investigators that when he objected, the person who pulled him over backed away and put his hand on an apparent gun he was carrying on a belt.
Again, Mints said, investigators showed the victim a lineup that included a photo of the officer to whom the cruiser was assigned. Again, she said, the victim did not identify the officer.
Meanwhile, internal affairs investigators located the vehicle and saw someone who is not a police officer get into it, Mints said. They took the man into custody and are currently questioning him, she said. He is expected to be charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, impersonating a police officer and robbery, she said. She said she could not name him because he has not yet been taken before a district court commissioner.
Internal affairs investigators are also questioning the officer whose cruiser was used, though they do not believe he was actively involved in any of the robberies, Mints said. She said it is possible he will be suspended as investigators get a more thorough account of what happened. Police did not release any information about him.
"We don't know what the relationship is, if there's a relationship, yet," Mints said. "We're wondering how this guy got his car."
Mints said it is possible there are other victims of the scheme, and she asked anyone with information to call internal affairs at 301-856-2660. She said police are also trying to re-locate the first two victims so they can have them identify the man in custody from a photo lineup.