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NJ Officer Indicted in Alleged Immigrant Shakedown

Elizabeth Police
Flickr User Democrats for Change

A New Jersey police officer has been indicted in an alleged scheme to make unwarranted motor vehicle stops of Hispanic men, question them about their residency status and threaten to report them to immigration officials unless they gave him money.

Rocco Malgieri of Brick Township faces theft, attempted extortion, bribery and official misconduct charges. A 58-count indictment returned Friday alleges the veteran Elizabeth police officer began targeting Hispanic 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 Hispanic 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.

 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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