Bond set for East Cleveland officers accused of stealing money during traffic stop

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EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Bond has been set at $5,000 each for two East Cleveland police officers accused of stealing thousands of dollars from a man during a traffic stop.

Alfonzo Cole, 33, and Willie Warner-Sims, 31, are both facing theft charges and are scheduled to be in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Wednesday.

East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner said the theft happened Friday after the officers stopped the man for an alleged traffic violation.

“They patted him down and found a large amount of cash in his pocket,” Gardner told the I-Team.  The chief explained the man had just withdrawn $9,000 to pay for his relative’s funeral. The man had his receipt from the bank and the information for the funeral home, the chief said.

 “Unfortunately, the same amount of cash that came out of his pocket did not go back in his pocket when it was all over,” Gardner said. He noted that only about $4,000 was returned to the man.

The chief contacted the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and asked for an investigation.

The officers were arrested a short time later.

Gardner confirmed he also asked sheriff officials to investigate another complaint filed by Richard Seawright. Seawright filed a complaint with East Cleveland police saying the officers stole about $350 from him when they searched his car.

“I was in my father’s driveway waiting for him to help me fix a light on my car when these officers came up to me,” Seawright told the I-Team.  “They ordered me out of the car and put me in their car. When I tried to ask questions they told me I couldn’t say anything.”

Seawright said after they searched his vehicle, they wrote him a citation for tinted windows, and let him go.  When he went back in his car he noticed the money was gone.

“I told my Dad I just got robbed by East Cleveland police,” Seawright said. “I earned that money from working in my car detailing business. That may not be a lot of money for some people but it is for me.”

East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King said he is very disappointed by the officers’ actions.

The two officers are on paid administrative leave, pending a disciplinary hearing.

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