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Pinellas deputy accused of using information from random vehicle in Walmart parking lot to fake drug report

"The vehicle's owner had not actually done anything wrong or illegal"
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
Posted at 1:42 PM, Jun 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 13:42:18-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.  — A patrol deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office was fired on Tuesday after an investigation found that he made a fake drug report using information pulled from the plate of a completely random vehicle parked in a Walmart parking lot, according to a press release.

The sheriff's office said deputy Joshua Sacino, 29, found a vehicle lawfully parked in a Walmart lot, ran the plate and used the information to make a fake report that said the owner of the vehicle was involved in drug activity.

"Deputy Sacino did this for self-serving reasons, to conceal his lack of activity and incompetence, with no regard of the consequences this report could have had for the citizen involved, or for any citizen operating that vehicle in the future," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

According to the sheriff's office, Sacino made the fake report after he was questioned over inactivity during a shift on March 30 where he was told to focus on traffic enforcement in the area of Seminole Boulevard. Authorities said during the shift Sacino "ignored these instructions" and instead sat in his patrol vehicle and surfed the internet for more than four hours.

After the traffic enforcement initiative was over, authorities said Sacino was asked to provide statistics and related case numbers. The sheriff's office said he lied and told his supervisor he made one traffic stop where he issued a verbal warning. The sheriff's office said Sacino ignored requests from his supervisors when asked for the case number and documentation of the traffic stop.

After he was questioned over that inactivity, the sheriff's office said Sacino drove to a Walmart and found the vehicle parked lawfully in the lot. Without leaving his patrol vehicle Sacino ran the vehicle's plate and left. Later, the sheriff's office said he made the fake report which said the vehicle's owner was involved in drug activity, and entered it into the agency's report management system.

The sheriff's office said the vehicle's owner, "had not actually done anything wrong or illegal."

In the fake report, Sacino said he found the vehicle after an anonymous person flagged him down about a suspicious vehicle involved in drug activity, the sheriff's office said.

When he was questioned further about the supposed traffic stop, Sacino eventually admitted it didn't happen and he made up the entire thing, according to the sheriff's office.

"Deputy Sacino intentionally attached a citizen and their vehicle to a narcotic-related report that could have adversely impacted the citizen," a press release said.

The sheriff's office said the fake report has since been deleted from the system and there is no adverse impact on the innocent person whose information was used.

Sacino was hired by the department in 2017 and his termination was effective Tuesday.