A fifth city police officer was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly violating citizen’s civil rights as part of a sweeping federal probe.
Matthew Torres, 30-year-old, of Paterson, is accused of violating the civil rights of a driver and passenger during a motor vehicle stop. He is charged with conspiring to deprive individuals of civil rights under color of law, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Torres and other police officers, including Eudy Ramos, stopped and searched vehicles and stole cash and other items from occupants, according to charging documents. Officers used fake paperwork to trick individuals into believing the cash seizures and stops were legitimate, according to Carpenito.
For example, on Dec. 7, 2017, Torres and Ramos conducted a motor vehicle stop of a pair of brothers in an undisclosed location. Both officers searched the vehicle and the victims.
The passenger told Ramos and Torres he had two bags of marijuana in his pocket.
“Honesty goes a long way,” Ramos told the passenger. The passenger also said he had $3,100 in his pocket.
Ramos took the cash and placed it on the back seat of the car. He told the passenger not to “worry about the weed.” He also told the passenger he had a potential outstanding warrant.
Both passenger and driver of the vehicle were removed from the car and put into Torres and Ramos’ separate police cars.
The two police officers told the passenger he could be charged with distribution of marijuana and that he could not be allowed to go without being charged “because the camera [city cameras] saw it.”
Ramos told the passenger he could avoid arrest by giving $500 and signing a piece of paper for the Narcotics Division. He told the passenger $500 would be confiscated, and that he had to call his superior officer to verify that amount is acceptable.
Ramos asked the passenger for his date of birth, and social security numbers. He then made a phone call and hung up.
“They could do it, but it’ll be $800,” Ramos told the passenger, according to charging documents.
Ramos took a piece of white paper that had Paterson Police Department logo, turned it over, wrote something on it, and handed it to the passenger to sign.
The passenger signed it without knowing what was written on the paper.
Torres and Ramos released both victims without filing any charges.
The passenger told authorities $1,000 was missing from the original $3,100.
Torres and Ramos did not report the cash seizure. Police records showed the passenger did not have an outstanding warrant.
A cooperating police officer told the FBI Ramos frequently used fake paperwork to trick people into believing an incident was as legitimate law enforcement encounter.
In Dec. 2018, Torres was interviewed by the FBI. He admitted that he and Ramos illegally seized cash from the passenger and that the cash was split amongst themselves.
Torres admitted he and Ramos engaged in similar conduct on other occasions, according to charging documents.
Torres, who joined the police force in Jul. 2014, was placed on unpaid suspension back in May.
The federal investigation previously netted four other officers: Jonathan Bustios, Eudy Ramos, Ruben McAusland, Roger Then. Bustios, McAusland, and Then have pleaded guilty.
Bustios admitted to pulling people over, conducting illegal searches, and seizing cash. McAusland pleaded guilty to taking heroin, crack-cocaine, powder cocaine, and marijuana from drug dealers and selling them using his police car.
Then admitted to concealing the assault of a suicidal man.
Ramos’ case is still pending.
Torres faces 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
Police brass referred the cases to the FBI for investigation.
“I will continue to investigate any police officer misconduct,” said police chief Troy Oswald on Wednesday morning.
Oswald began to clean house after being appointed chief in early 2018.