Another Paterson, New Jersey police officer on Wednesday was arrested for stealing from motorists. Matthew Torres, 30, became the fifth officer taken down for misconduct following a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into the widespread corruption at the department.
Under interrogation, Torres admitted to shaking down motorists on a number of occasions. Specifically, on December 7, 2017, Torres and Officer Eudy Ramos, 31, stopped a motorist who was riding along with his brother. That brother admitted that he had two small bags of marijuana in his pocket.
“Honesty goes a long way,” Officer Ramos said as he took the $3100 in cash he found after searching the car and laid it out on the backseat. “Don’t worry about the weed.”
Instead of arresting the driver, the officers forced the motorist to sign a piece of paper with a Paterson Police Department logo that explained they were confiscating $800 — except they ended up taking $1000. No charges were filed over the drugs.
On Tuesday, former Officer Jonathan K. Bustios, 29, accepted a plea deal from the federal agents who caught him conducting a similar motorist shake down. Like Torres, Bustios would target vehicles likely to have drivers carrying money so that he could conduct a search without probable cause and help himself to their cash. Bustios and Ramos would then submit bogus police reports that covered up what they did during the stops.
The plot was exposed after the February 20, 2018, traffic stop of a BMW sedan being driven by a black man on Bergen Street. The Bimmer’s two occupants were thoroughly searched. Officer Bustios found a white plastic bag that contained $1800 in cash and a Smith and Wesson revolver. Bustios handed some of the cash to Officer Ramos and later that day reported they had found the firearm based on a tip from a concerned citizen. No report was made about the traffic stop, and the cash was never turned in.
The department became suspicious and placed Bustios and Ramos under video surveillance. They were then caught red-handed making a bogus stop in March. Bustios made a deal for himself with the feds to rat out his colleagues in return for a lighter sentence. Bustios faced a maximum of twenty years in jail and a $250,000 fine, plus three years on probation. Under the federal sentencing guidelines of his plea deal, he may end up spending as little as two years behind bars. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer has set up a Friday conference call for further proceedings.
The other Paterson officers busted for misconduct include Roger Then and Ruben McAusland, both charged with deprivation of civil rights under color of law.