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Phony officer suspect caught

A deputy's wife heard the description of the suspect's car, which previously had been used as a police car, and told her husband she knew where the car was.

By KATHERINE BLOK

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


SPRING HILL -- Thanks to the sharp eye of the wife of a sheriff's deputy, the man who authorities think has been impersonating a police officer and stopping vehicles has been arrested.

James A. Torrey, 39, of 5150 Harbinger Road in Spring Hill, was apprehended Wednesday and charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer. He later was released from the Hernando County Jail on $10,000 bail.

The deputy's wife, whom sheriff's officials would not name, heard the description of Torrey's car, which previously had been used as a police car, and told her husband she knew where the car was, Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Joe Paez said.

After Torrey had been identified, detectives met and interviewed him Wednesday morning at a Citrus County Sheriff's Office substation, near Torrey's place of employment, Paez said. Detectives let Torrey go after the questioning and arrested him late Wednesday afternoon at his home in Hernando, he said.

Torrey had been driving a 1993 gray Ford Crown Victoria, the same model used by the Hernando Sheriff's Office for both marked and unmarked cars. He told officers he restored the car and outfitted it with a blue light and a police siren. Torrey also told officers that he was just test driving his car and that he knew it was wrong to make traffic stops.

Torrey is accused of making two stops, both in the neighborhood near his home. Authorities said he stopped a 26-year-old woman near the intersection of Norvell and Terrell roads at about 8 p.m. Friday. The intersection is south of Elgin Boulevard and west of Mariner Boulevard in the northern part of Spring Hill.

The woman said the man who stopped her never asked for her driver's license or car registration. He told her she was driving 6 mph above the speed limit and that the fine was $200 but that he was only giving her a verbal warning.

The second stop was made at Landover Boulevard and Abagail Drive about 11:30 p.m. Friday, when authorities say Torrey used a siren and a spotlight to pull over a 26-year-old man.

The impersonator told the man he was a corrections officer but did not indicate to the man why he had pulled him over. Before the conversation ended, the man said, the man who had stopped him said "I'll see you later" and drove off and headed east on Landover Boulevard.

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