BRADENTON, Fla. – There was a police officer at the door. It was June 2018, in Bradenton, Fla., a Gulf Coast community south of Tampa. The couple who answered the knock quickly realized something was off.
Bradenton Police Sgt. Leonel Marines asked the couple if he could speak to their adult daughter. As Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan told reporters Thursday, Marines had briefly encountered the young woman earlier that day in a parking lot, then followed her home, reported The Washington Post.
Now, at her parents’ door, Marines, 36, said he needed to speak to the daughter regarding a “domestic incident,” Bevan told reporters. The couple did not believe their daughter was involved with any type of situation that required her to speak with police. As a result, they refused Marines’s request. Moreover, they asked for his name and supervisor’s information. Yet Marines refused to answer and left abruptly. Consequently, the couple immediately called the station to report what transpired.
That phone call became instrumental in uncovering a pattern of misconduct. It tipped off police to behavior that Bevan said “cast a dark shadow on our law enforcement profession.” According to the chief, her department learned that Marines allegedly had used a sensitive database to mine information for his own personal dating service.
“To get right to the root of the matter, Leonel Marines was not utilizing this data for law enforcement purposes whatsoever,” Bevan said. “Instead, he was using it in a variety of ways — from social media, cold telephone calls, visits to their home under the guise of being there for police business, you name it — trying to get dates with these women. He was very persistent and successful at times in his efforts to do so.”
Marines was not only a 12-year member of the Bradenton Police Department, but a supervisor to boot. He was taken off patrol once the initial complaint was made last summer. He resigned in October while the investigation continued. Eventually, five detectives contacted 150 women Marines is accused of contacting inappropriately.
“This behavior may have been going on for years, stretching as far back as 2012,” Bevan said.
Bevan said the FBI is reviewing the case for possible criminal charges against Marines. The former police officer has yet to respond publicly to the allegations and could not be reached to comment.
Bevan credited the unidentified parents of the young woman for sparking the inquiry.
“They were heroes, as far as I’m concerned,” she told reporters. “In this day and age, it takes a little bit of courage to tell a police officer standing at their door . . . ‘No, we don’t want to let you talk to our daughter because we don’t get the right feeling about this.’ ”
But the recent episode was not the first time Marines had landed in administrative hot water over his use of a police database. According to the Bradenton Herald, a woman filed a complaint with the department in March 2012 over an encounter with Marines the previous November.
She told the department that Marines had come to her home several times, “asking her personal questions that seemed unrelated to any police investigation and she didn’t know him personally,” the Herald reported, citing an internal affairs report.
Investigators determined that Marines had accessed the woman’s personal information twice using the Driver and Vehicle Information Database, a storehouse of driver and vehicle information that police are supposed to access for official use only.
According to the report, the officer told investigators “that there was no particular reason, that they had mutual friends and it was out of curiosity.”
Investigators then learned Marines had also accessed the information of eight other people. The officer said he could not remember if he had accessed the data for police business or not. Marines’s misuse of police data in 2012 resulted in a three-day suspension, according to the Herald.
But the punishment apparently did not dissuade Marines from continuing to access information about women.
- TROOPER SHOOTS ATTACKER AFTER BEING STABBED … SUSPECT DIES
- VIDEO SHOWS DENVER CORPORAL LOSING HIS COOL WITH BELLIGERENT ARRESTEE
- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: WOMAN REMOVED FROM GUN CONTROL HEARING FOR THREATENING TO SHOOT LAWMAKER
Last June, after Marines’s unsuccessful attempt to talk to the couple’s adult daughter, the family contacted his watch commander about the sergeant’s concerns about a “domestic” incident.
The watch commander then quizzed Marines about why he had knocked on the family’s door, Bevan told reporters on Thursday. The sergeant replied that he had followed the woman because one of her headlights was out, and because he suspected she was driving while impaired.
“The two stories really didn’t match up, and when it was brought to my attention, I ordered a further investigation of the incident, which ultimately led to an audit of Marines’s . . . records use, as well as his patrol activity,” Bevan explained. “The results of this audit heightened my concerns even greater due to the discrepancies of the subjects he was conducting queries on.”
According to Bevan, investigators noticed Marines’s searches showed “a very, very clear trend of focusing on female versus male names,” she told reporters. Marines also allegedly focused on Hispanic women who did not speak English.
Investigators contacted around 150 women he had contacted as part of the investigation, Bevan said.
Moreover, they determined he had sex with some of the women while on duty. However, the chief would not go into specifics of how many sexual relationships Marines allegedly had from the information he accessed. She also would not specify what charges the FBI was pursuing as part of the investigation.
Furthermore, the chief said they believe there are more women out there who may have had contact with the former officer.
“As far as I’m concerned, he betrayed the oath he swore to,” she told reporters.
The report did not indicate when Marines promoted to sergeant.