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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Former Cop Sentenced to 3 Years for Targeting Hispanics

Former Lantana police officer sentenced to 3 years in prison
The Sun Sentinel by Charlie Grau - January 10, 2012
Mark Ott pleads guilty to stealing money from Hispanics during traffic stops

A former Lantana police officer was sentenced to three years in prison after an undercover operation found he was targeting and robbing Hispanics. As part of a plea agreement, Mark Ott pleaded guilty on Tuesday to three felony charges of robbing Hispanics while on duty. Circuit Judge Stephen Rapp Ott also ordered Ott to pay $1,780 restitution to seven of his victims. Ott's attorney Michael Salnick said his client took the deal because he didn't want to drag out the case and embarrass the department or his family. "He had been with Lantana police since he was a dispatcher, and just wanted to move on, get on with his life," Salnick said. Prosecutors found that from February to May, Ott targeted Hispanics he suspected were undocumented. He pulled them over, asked for identification, then stole a portion of their money. According to a probable cause affidavit, Ott took as little as $35 and as much as $400 during the string of robberies. The investigation began when an FBI agent accused Ott, 36, of pulling him over in February and harassing him and his son. The incident was reported to the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office. Tips from the FBI about Ott's robberies led to an undercover operation involving the State Attorney's Office, the FBI and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. During the operation, a sheriff's deputy acted as a driver and an "FBI source" acted as a passenger. The deputy was given $400 in marked bills. When Ott pulled them over on May 18, he took the agent's cash and wallet and put it in the front seat of his patrol car, according to the affidavit. Ott let both men go and returned the cash. But the agent later learned that Ott had taken $150. According to the affidavit, Ott was called back to the Lantana Police Department and read his rights. The missing cash was found in his tactical vest and matched through the serial numbers., 561-243-6633 or Twitter @CharlieGrau

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