FBI accuses Paterson officer of stealing from drivers

Posted: Updated:
PATERSON -

A Paterson police officer is facing federal charges for allegedly stealing money from drivers during traffic stops.

Officer Matthew Torres was charged with civil rights violations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says that Torres made unjustified traffic tops, searched the vehicles and then stole cash and other items from the occupants. Authorities say that Torres and other officers sometimes used fake paperwork to trick individuals into believing that the cash seizures and vehicle stops were legitimate.

The federal charges allege that in December 2017 Torres and Officer Eudy Ramos stopped a marijuana dealer and forced the dealer to pay them $500 each in exchange for ignoring the drugs.

 The arrest comes as part of a larger federal and local probe into corruption into the Paterson Police Department. The probe found that some officers allegedly beat a suicidal man in his hospital bed, recorded the attack on camera and then tried to delete the evidence.

Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh and Police Director Jerry Speziale say that there is no tolerance for corruption in the police department.

Speziale says that eight police officers have been identified and charged in an extensive investigation he says was initiated within the department. But the police director says that there are many more good officers on the force.

“No cop that is truly a cop to the core wants to be in a car sitting next to a dirty cop. Or a drug-dealing cop. Or a thief. They don’t want to be near them,” he says. “They want nothing to do with them. I've been a cop 37 years. Do you think I want to sit with a corrupt cop? I want to choke them. I want nothing to do with that.”

Speziale says that new accountability tests are coming to the department soon.

Paterson has a reputation for corruption. The city’s previous mayor, Joey Torres, was just released from prison after serving 13 months for using city funds to pay city employees to renovate his daughter’s business.

"There is a culture of corruption," Sayegh says. "In the five-plus months that we've been here, we're looking to erode that culture of corruption."

Sayegh says that his administration is working hard to change Paterson’s reputation.

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