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Former MP accused of planting drugs on arrested Florida drivers

The allegations have led prosecutors to drop the prosecution in many cases.

Zachary Wester, 26, was arrested Wednesday at his home in Crawfordville, about 20 miles south of Tallahassee, according to the Florida Law Enforcement Department. He is currently being held in Wakulla County Prison without bail, said the FDLE.

He is charged with racketeering, official misconduct, fabrication of evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment. He also faces charges of perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drugs, the FDLE said.

At least 11 people are suing Wester in federal court for alleged violations of civil rights.

100+ rejected cases

At the request of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the former employer of Wester, the FDLE opened an investigation into the MP in August after the video camera of an arrest in February 2018 showed that Wester was planting methamphetamine in Teresa Odom's van at a roadside check, spokeswoman Jeremy Burns of the FDLE told CNN in September.

At the time, the FDLE was examining 254 Wester cases, prosecutors said.

"The investigation shows that Wester regularly arrested citizens for suspected minor traffic violations, put drugs in their vehicles and arrested them on fabricated drug charges," the FDLE said in its statement. released Wednesday, adding that he had examined more than 21 hours of footage his investigation.

"Wester bypassed JCSO's body camera policy and adapted his recordings to hide his criminal activities."

Wester's lawyer did not immediately respond to a phone call asking for comments.

Attorney General Glenn Hess said in September that 119 cases had been closed and about 10 people had been released from prison. CNN could not immediately reach Hess Wednesday, but local media reports that the investigation has expanded since.

Wester was fired on September 10th. He had been working for the department since 2000, according to Hess's office.

& # 39; It is of course that it is not mine & # 39;

The Bodycam video of Odom's arrest in February 2018 in Cottondale shows that Wester is approaching the car in a friendly manner and explains to the woman that her stop lights are not working properly.

He leaves with his driver's license and, as he comes back in his car, he jokes that his hip has almost yielded. Odom tells her that her mother is in the hospital and that she is waiting for a call from a doctor. Wester tells him that a drug dog is on the way, but Odom says that she has nothing in the car and gives her consent to search it.

Wester seems to hold something in his left hand while he dons black gloves before searching. His hand leaves the frame for a few seconds and returns empty. He finishes putting on the gloves and starts the search.

The Bodycam video shows Wester taking medication in Odom's car last year.

After having "found" a bag of white powder in his truck, he places it on the driver's seat but does not alert two other deputies on the spot. Instead, he moves it, placing it first on a spoon and then on the passenger seat. All the while, he keeps joking with Odom.

After searching the passenger side of his vehicle, where he had just dropped the bag, he returned to Odom and another deputy with the spoon and the powder. Odom says that the spoon is for his yoghurt but seems surprised by the powder bag.

"It's not mine, no, sir, no, sir," she said.

After the powder gave a positive result to methamphetamine, Wester told Odom that she was under arrest while she was talking on the phone with a member of her family.

"He says that the tests for amphetamine are positive, so I guess I'll go to jail," Odom told the person on the phone. "It's damn sure it's not mine."

The file remains open

Three federal lawsuits have been filed against Wester. Eleven people arrested by him claim that the former MP framed them, planting a combination of marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription drugs and drug-using equipment, including syringes and medical devices. scales in their vehicle after locking them in for minor offenses. Two lawsuits were filed in December and one in May.

In the most recent case, Lora Penn, one of the nine complainants, claims to be a passenger of a vehicle intercepted on June 7, 2018. She alleged that Wester had placed methamphetamine and a hypodermic needle in his bag.

Accused of possession of drugs and paraphernalia, Penn spent twelve days in jail before "his mother could not pay a bond, exhausting her meager financial resources." Penn's mother could no longer afford medical care and died lack of such care, "says the federal prosecutor.

The FDLE, whose investigators have already recorded 1400 hours in the criminal case against Wester, said the investigation remained open and encouraged anyone with information to make themselves known.

"There is no doubt that Wester's crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail," said Chris Williams, deputy special envoy of the FDLE in charge of the Pensacola office.

Prior to working for the Jackson County Sheriff, Wester was working in Liberty County. In May, Jack Campbell, the attorney general, told CNN's affiliate, WCTV, that the investigators were "resolving" some cases involving the former lawman. He would not give more details on the number of cases, reported the station.

The station has previously reported that Campbell is examining 26 cases.

Amir Vera, Marlena Baldacci and Amanda Watts of CNN contributed to this report.

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