In a shocking case of corruption within the East Cleveland Police Department, former officers Willie Sims and Alfonzo Cole have been sentenced to prison for stealing cash, drugs, and guns from unsuspecting motorists during traffic stops. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office revealed that between July 2020 and July 2021, Sims and Cole collectively stole $14,781, two firearms, and marijuana edibles from six victims.
Both officers pleaded guilty to four counts of felony robbery and one count of felony theft in office. Cole faced additional charges of having weapons under disability and carrying concealed weapons for stealing guns from two separate drivers in June and July of 2021. On Monday, Cole was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, while Sims received a two-year prison sentence on Thursday.
The arrest of Sims and Cole came after they robbed a 21-year-old motorist of $4,000 on his way to pay for his mother's funeral services on July 9, 2021. The victim immediately drove to the police station where he worked and filed a complaint. Later that day, department supervisors pulled Cole over and recovered $1,200 and weed edibles.
One victim, Jonathan Whitlow, expressed doubt that the officers would have ever been investigated if it weren't for his response. He stated that this type of misconduct has been going on in East Cleveland for over 20 years without any action being taken. Whitlow himself was robbed by Sims twice, with a total of $2,081 stolen. On the first occasion, Sims pulled him over for a window tint violation, but Whitlow did not report the theft because he had marijuana in the vehicle that went unnoticed. However, during the second incident, Whitlow caught the theft on video as Sims stole four marijuana gummies.
During the court proceedings, Whitlow requested that Sims not be sent to prison, questioning how he would be able to repay his victims while earning only 3 cents an hour. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy McGinty acknowledged Whitlow's concerns but emphasized that the officers needed to face consequences for their actions.
In addition to the prison sentences, both Sims and Cole were fined $40,000 and ordered to repay their victims. Cole was required to pay a total of $4,580 to three victims, while Sims had to repay $6,931 to his victims. It remains unclear if this amount includes the fine for a traffic ticket Cole issued to a victim from whom he stole $850 and marijuana in September of 2021.
The court proceedings shed light on Sims' lack of remorse for his actions. He allegedly told the court's probation department that he felt no remorse because he was pocketing money from drug dealers, claiming that he learned this practice from older officers on the force. Sims reportedly told his first victim, a worker for a beverage distribution company, that he "must have dropped" the $3,850 he collected from clients on his route, before stealing the money and a firearm from the victim's car.
These arrests are part of a larger investigation into corruption within the East Cleveland Police Department. Multiple former and current officers, including former Police Chief Scott Gardner, have been charged with various crimes, including fraud, theft, money laundering, and tampering with records. The investigation aims to root out systemic corruption within the department and restore public trust in law enforcement.