On Wednesday, July 10, a former Florida sheriff’s deputy was arrested for planting drugs on drivers during traffic stops. Investigators report that the deputy’s “drug-planting” scheme was part of his regular procedure as he pulled drivers over for minor infractions.
Florida Deputy Charged With Felonies
Local authorities have arrested Zachary Wester after saying that he would intentionally pull drivers over for inconsequential moving violations in order to plant drugs in their vehicles. He would then arrest them on false drug-possession charges.
According to a press release issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the former sheriff’s deputy was charged with several felonies including “racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment.”
Aside from the felony charges, Wester is also looking at misdemeanor charges of perjury and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was arrested on Wednesday morning in Crawfordville, Florida.
The Investigation of the FDLE
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began its investigation into Wester’s suspicious activities in August of 2018 at the request of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office where Wester was employed. Upon viewing the video footage, Wester can be seen pulling his victims over for minor traffic infractions, planting the drugs in their vehicles, and then arresting them unjustly.
Wester strategically avoids the body camera policy put in place by the JCSO, as well as modifies the camera’s recordings in order to hide his actions. Unfortunately for Wester, his attempts to disguise his activities were unsuccessful.
The entire investigation took over 1,400 working hours to complete as the FDLE analyzed and scrutinized over 1,300 minutes of recorded video footage.
Approximately 120 Cases Dismissed
Arrests involving unsuspecting drivers and Zachary Wester between 2016 and 2018 were dropped after he was charged. One of the nearly 120 dismissed cases involved a man named Benjamin Bowling who had lost custody of his daughter as a result of the unlawful arrest by Wester.
Bowling was charged with possession of methamphetamine during the fall of 2017 as a passenger of a car that Wester pulled over. The child welfare agency in Florida just recently released Bowling from prison as long as he was routinely tested for drugs. However, upon the recent arrest of Wester, the charges against Bowling have been dropped, and his record has been wiped clean.
The Investigative Authorities Speak Out
The FDLE is proud of the dedication and support of those involved in bringing Wester to justice. FDLE Pensacola Assistant Special Agent in Charge Chris Williams said, “There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail. I am proud of the hard work and dedication shown by our agents and analysts on this case to ensure justice is served.”
Zachary Wester was sent to the Wakulla County Jail and is being held without bond. The Office of the State Attorney will be conducting the prosecution of the case.