A former Cedartown police officer pleaded guilty Monday to charges he targeted and took money from Hispanics and Latinos.
Douglas Damiano, 37, of Buchanan, appeared in U.S. District Court, accused of depriving those minorities of their civil rights by stealing money from them during traffic stops in 2002 and 2003.
Police officers are sworn to uphold the law, not to break it, said Wan J. Kim, a prosecutor at the Department of Justices Civil Rights Division. While the vast majority of law enforcement officials take their public responsibilities seriously, we are committed to prosecuting those who willfully fail to do so.
The former officer admitted Monday to stopping two motorists, identified only as RM and ECL, on Dec. 29, 2002, and Jan. 15, 2003, respectively, obtaining their wallets and removing $100 from one and $80 from the other.
Authorities stated in court Damiano admitted to depriving at least five more victims of more than $2,000 who never reported the incident. He was ordered to make restitution for all the money he took.
In early 2003, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation received complaints about Damiano and hired a Gordon County sheriffs deputy of Latino descent to pose as a civilian motorist. Damiano stopped the undercover deputy and stole a marked $100 bill from him.
Damiano was then arrested and resigned.
He could receive a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison and a fine of as much as $300,000. Sentencing is scheduled for May 3 at 10 a.m., before Judge Robert L. Vining Jr.
He was indicted through the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit on charges of theft by taking and violation of oath of office.
Those state charges are still pending.
Cedartown Police Chief Keith Barber testified Damiano tried to get another job in law enforcement after resigning.
The joint prosecution of this case by the state of Georgia and the federal government is important because it will prevent Damiano from working in law enforcement, said Barber. What he did was inexcusable, and we will not tolerate it.