Accused of making unlawful searches and seizures, two former Columbus vice detectives were recently arrested and charged with conspiring to violate others’ civil rights and conspiring to commit wire fraud. In a separate scandal, the detectives were fired last year for their roles in the “improper” arrest of Stormy Daniels.
In March 2015, Columbus Division of Police Det. Steven Rosser was involved in a physical fight with a man at Nick’s Cabaret, a gentleman’s club on East Dublin Granville Road. Rosser allegedly represented that he was acting in the course and scope of his employment as a police officer during the fight and in the days that followed.
According to the indictment, Rosser logged onto Columbus police’s computer system using the credential of another officer — without that officer’s knowledge or permission — and filing a false preliminary investigative report that assault detectives used to arrest the man in April 2015. That man was held for five days in the Franklin County jail before the charges against him were dismissed.
In April 2018, Rosser and several Columbus police officers entered The Dollhouse, a gentleman’s club on the East Side, and reportedly found the residue of a white powder on a table in the office area. Without a warrant or consent, Rosser illegally searched a vehicle belonging to the strip club owner while remaining in constant communication with Det. Whitney Lancaster, according to the indictment.
Between January and May 2019, Rosser and Lancaster allegedly double-billed the Fort Rapids hotel and the Columbus Division of Police on 29 separate days after the hotel suffered structural damage due to a flood and required police presence to monitor the site for further damage and safety issues.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department unsealed the indictment against Rosser and Lancaster. They each face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and charges of conspiracy to violate a person’s civil rights.
“The indictment alleges that these two former law enforcement officers abused their badges and deprived individuals of their Constitutional rights,” said U.S. Attorney David DeVillers. “We will root out any alleged bad actors acting under color of law and are grateful to the vast majority of officers who do the honorable work of protecting us and the Constitution.”
“The FBI and the Southern Ohio Public Corruption Task Force are committed to rooting out public corruption and working to ensure that those who abuse their law enforcement privileges are held accountable,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman. “We will continue to work with our partners to protect the citizens of this community and uphold their Constitutional rights.”
“A cop’s authority is derived from citizens who trust them to keep the peace,” asserted Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. “When one betrays that trust, we need to hold them accountable to defend the integrity of the good men and women who keep us safe.”
Conspiracy to violate a person’s civil rights is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In September 2019, Rosser and Lancaster were fired for failing to file proper paperwork to justify the arrest of Stormy Daniels and lying to internal affairs investigators of their intention to go to the strip club that day.