Former rookie police officer gets prison for traffic-stop robberies

Acosta’s enthusiasm wasn’t about enforcing the law, but enlarging his cash holdings.

The cash Acosta stole and his freedom are gone after he plead guilty to 10 counts of burglary, 10 counts of false imprisonment, eight counts of grand theft and two counts of petit theft. The 24-year-old paid full restitution to his victims and has been sentenced to six years in prison, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said.

“There was no way out for him other than to be a man and accept responsibility for his actions,” said Acosta’s attorney, George Pallas.

Acosta was hired May 24, 2016 and fired in March 2017.

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said Acosta, even as a rookie, was out patrolling on his own during the time he was observed. In the simplest terms, Colina said, he’d conduct a traffic stop and steal money and items from unsuspecting motorists.

“It’s appropriate that there’s a serious penalty,” Colina said. “Not only did he take from people, but he did it under the color of the law.”

In announcing Acosta’s arrest last year, Miami police said they received several complaints in February 2017 about missing money. The resulting investigation by Miami police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement ended with Acosta.

One night in Wynwood, Miami police watched Acosta make stops without probable cause, stops that he never phoned in to dispatch, stops for which he never wrote a ticket. But he’d have the driver get out of the car, he’d search the car, then let the driver back behind the wheel. During the search, he’d snatch cash.

Acosta stopped one driver with $1,250 cash in his wallet and pockets. Acosta appropriated $940 during a pat down. The driver, however, was an undercover cop and Acosta held marked bills.

“Jose Acosta was a corrupt opportunist who used his police uniform as a weapon to steal from people he knew would never contact law enforcement,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle said. “He targeted them as he pretended to be protecting the community. Now he will serve hard time.”