Anthony Costanzo, a Broward County, Florida sheriff’s deputy, was arrested on Wednesday after authorities accused him of attempting to affect the outcome of a criminal trial, according to news reports. Costanzo, 42, was reportedly booked into Broward Main Jail on charges of felony use of a phone, evidence tampering, witness tampering, and disclosure of confidential information. He has since been released on $5,000 bail bond, sources indicate.
Area media outlets are reporting that Costanzo has been on the Broward police force for twelve years. If convicted as charged, Costanzo could purportedly be sentenced to life in prison. There is no indication that he has ever faced criminal charges in the past. He was even featured on the television show Cops, a Fox series that follows law enforcement officers on the job. She show is Fox’s longest-running program.
Sources indicate that Costanzo has been accused of trying to aid Fort Lauderdale Detective Billy Koepke, who is currently undergoing prosecution along with his partner for official misconduct, racketeering, extortion, false imprisonment, kidnapping, grand theft, and falsifying records. Both men, aged 30 and 32 respectively, face life in prison if convicted as charged. Their arrests evidently came after a two-month long internal investigation within the police department.
News sources indicate that the pair has been accused of pulling people over for traffic stops and searching for money and drugs. If they found large sums of money or drugs, the officers allegedly fabricated a charge in order to arrest the person, confiscated the goods, and pocketed a portion before turning the rest into the police department as evidence. This allegedly went on between late April and late August of 2010 and involved four separate traffic stops, at which victims allege they were robbed of $1,550 to nearly $5,500.
The charges against Koepke are quite serious. One victim, Mike Mayer, has reportedly alleged that he was removed from a vehicle in which he was a passenger one afternoon in August 2010. Mayer insists that he had not committed any crimes, but he was allegedly told that he could go to life in prison and that if he wanted to be set free, he had to “set up” a third party. Mayer alleges that he was driven around for hours, handcuffed, in the back of a police car without having committed a crime. Two other defendants alleged that after being arrested on drug charges, they would never see their money or car again and that they should “post bond and get the hell out of Florida and never come back.”
Costanzo was apprehended after he allegedly recorded a conversation with one of the alleged victims on his cell phone, then sent it to several third parties. According to news reports, Bonita Liston, one of the alleged victims, was brought into the Fort Lauderdale police station after police found Xanax on her during a traffic stop. Liston was later able to prove that she had a prescription for the drug, and all charges against her were dropped. However, while she was at the station, Liston apparently mentioned that she was involved with a false imprisonment case against Koepke.
Authorities believe that Costanzo found out about Liston’s involvement with the case and talked to her about it, attempting to convince her that Koepke had not committed any wrongdoing. He allegedly recorded this conversation using his cell phone, although the conversation was already being recorded on surveillance cameras. Later, Costanzo allegedly sent the recording to Koepke’s cell phone and via email to a lawyer involved in the case.