Two former Cleveland police officers accused of stealing firearms and over $14,000 from drivers during traffic stops were each sentenced to two years in prison after they each pleaded guilty to four counts of robbery and one count of theft in office, Cleveland.com reported.
In a statement, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said Alfonzo Cole, 35, and his former partner Willie Sims, 32, stole from several victims while they were on duty from July 2020 to July 2021.
Sims is said to have initially stolen $3,850 from a victim’s vehicle on July 7, 2020. Prior to the theft, the 52-year-old victim and another female were having a verbal altercation at a gas station parking lot when Sims responded to the scene. Sims allegedly stole the money from the victim’s vehicle after he saw a gun inside and initiated a search.
Sims, on November 8, 2020, also stole $1,300 from another victim’s vehicle after he initiated a traffic stop. The money was in the trunk of the victim’s vehicle when he removed it. Sims then stole from this same victim during another traffic stop at a gas station on July 8, 2021, the statement said. The convicted former police officer is said to have removed $781 and suspected marijuana edibles from the victim’s vehicle.
Cole, on the other hand, initially stole $850 from a 43-year-old victim’s vehicle during a traffic stop on September 22, 2020. He also removed suspected marijuana that was valued at about $400 from the victim’s vehicle. Cole then issued the victim a traffic citation that had his signature and the signature of an East Cleveland Police sergeant, the statement said.
During another traffic stop on June 22, 2021, Cole removed $4,000, suspected marijuana, and a firearm from a 26-year-old victim’s vehicle. On that same day, the convicted former police officer pulled another vehicle over and asked the 18-year-old victim if there was a gun in the car. He then “removed the victim’s mother’s firearm, located under the seat, and bullets, located in the glove box, from the vehicle.”
Sims and Cole also executed another traffic stop on July 8, 2021, and stole $4,000 from a 21-year-old victim’s vehicle. “The victim reported the theft to the East Cleveland Police Department (ECPD) and the ECPD contacted the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department (CCSD),” the statement said.
“CCSD executed a search warrant at Alfonzo Cole’s residence on July 13, 2021, and recovered the guns from both June 22, 2021, traffic stops, along with suspected marijuana edibles.”
The investigation also established that Cole forged the signature of an East Cleveland Police sergeant for the citation he issued on September 22, 2020. The sergeant in question was also not at the scene when the traffic stop was executed. The two former cops stole a total of $14,781 as well as two firearms from six victims.
Besides their convictions, visiting Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy McGinty also fined Sims and Cole $40,000 and ordered them to pay back $5,000 to a victim they robbed together, Cleveland.com reported.
“This sentence is a continuation of our efforts to eliminate corruption in the East Cleveland police department,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said.
Prior to Sims’ sentencing, however, McGinty highlighted that the 32-year-old informed the court’s probation department he was just taking a cue from the department’s older officers who created a custom of stealing money from drug dealers without any “remorse.”