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LATROBE (KDKA) — Latrobe’s police chief John Sleasman is not one to mince words, and he stayed true to form when asked what he thought of the actions of Pennsylvania constable Brian McDowell.
“It’s an absolute example of misuse of authority, intimidation tactics and theft,” he said.
McDowell, 35, is charged with looking for people on public records who may owe fines or court costs, contacting them by Facebook Messenger and demanding they pay him the cash, which he then pocketed.
“Brian McDowell was not authorized to serve any arrest warrants in Westmoreland County and certainly not [allowed to] take cash towards fines or fees,” Sleasman said.
McDowell would meet the victims at various places in Latrobe, including Sheetz, Sunoco and a Walmart on Route 30. In some cases, he showed up at the people’s doors.
No matter where the meeting took place, police say McDowell made it clear it was all up to the victim — pay the cash or go to jail, or in the case of one worried mom, something worse.
“He threatened arrest, incarceration. He also, at one point in time, threatened a young lady [and said he would] contact Children Services that would take her children while she was incarcerated. Some of the victims’ fines had already been paid. They didn’t owe any money. There was no warrant for their arrest,” Sleasman said.
A local district justice tipped police off regarding McDowell’s alleged scam. McDowell is accused of swindling nearly $5,000 from his alleged victims and police suspect when it comes to those allegedly taken in, there may be more.
“It’s unknown right now how many victims there truly are,” Sleasman said.
McDowell is charged with intimidation, official oppression theft and several other felony counts. McDowell is in the Westmoreland County Prison on $20,000 bond.