Bill Jakob arrived in this small town with an offer to help police curb the community's methamphetamine problem.

He had a badge and a gun, and he told officials he had previously worked as an anti-drug agent in Illinois. He even drove a fully equipped Ford Crown Victoria, which he said was for undercover work.

There was just one problem: Jakob was no police officer. The 36-year-old man was an unemployed truck driver with a criminal record and had recently filed for bankruptcy.

Now this village of 1,200 people southwest of St. Louis is confronting allegations that Jakob and other officers mistreated and robbed many of the people they arrested.

At least 17 people have sued, and Jakob is in jail awaiting charges.

Complaints about Jakob's rough treatment of suspects led a reporter from the Gasconade County Republican newspaper to ask the sheriff about the new officer. That's when Jakob's story unraveled.

Gerald Mayor Otis Schulte defended Jakob's hiring, saying: "He had credentials. He had a badge. He had a phone number to call for verification. ... I don't know what else we could have done."

Authorities now suspect the person who answered the phone was Jakob's wife.