Authorities say a police officer in New Jersey faces theft, attempted extortion, bribery and official misconduct charges for unwarranted motor vehicle stops of Latino men.
Elizabeth police officer Rocco Malgieri allegedly pulled over Latino men, before questioning them about their residency status and threatening to report them to federal immigration officials unless they gave him money.
A 58-count indictment returned Friday alleges the veteran officer began targeting Latino men in February for unwarranted vehicle stops while he was on duty.
Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said Monday at least 12 people had reported that Malgieri solicited payments from them ranging from $30 to $250.
The 43-year-old officer has been suspended from the Elizabeth police department without pay.
A lawyer who previously represented Malgieri on the initial charges, Donald DiGioia, did not return a call for comment Monday.
Malgieri surrendered in March and remains free on a $20,000 bond.
Prosecutors allege Malgieri would pull over Latino male drivers, ask if they were in this country legally, and threaten to report them to immigration authorities if they were not, unless they paid him a bribe.
Local police are not supposed to ask about a driver's immigration status during a vehicle stop.
Only a few jurisdictions in New Jersey have been given special authorization to allow local officials to enforce federal immigration laws, including checking a person's status. The Elizabeth police force is not one of them.
Based on reporting from The Associated Press.