A 30-year-old Florida man was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly impersonating a local sheriff's official, to the point that he purchased a firearm and paraphernalia to further his disguise.
WPEC-TV reported on Friday that 30-year-old Philippe Max Elie was carrying a Glock-19 with 10 rounds in the magazine when he was stopped by Detective Andrew Cardarelli. Elie reportedly also had a sheriff's gold star in his wallet and was wearing a shirt falsely identifying him as a member of the Broward County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities said Elie's car was also outfitted to resemble a law enforcement vehicle, with strobe lights that flickered in red and blue, a license plate reading "954-COP," and a tailgate emblem calling his SUV a "police interceptor."
Cardarelli told WPEC that he encountered Elie after driving by him on Interestate 95. Elie said he was parked alongside the road looking for people breaking the rules regarding the road's heavy-occupancy lane. Elie reportedly began tailgating Cardarelli's vehicle, which was traveling around 70 mph.
"I was under the assumption and impression that Elie was a 'Deputy Sheriff' in the performance of his duties," Cardarelli was quoted as saying. "I yielded to the right to allow him to pass me."
However, when Cardarelli noticed the designations on Elie's vehicle, he checked its information and learned he was not an actual law enforcement officer.
Elie later confessed to being a manager at a local resort, but upon being stopped by Cardarelli, he allegedly said, "I work with the Sheriff's Department." In fact, he had been a volunteer member of the Oakland Park Sheriff Department's "Citizen Observer" program. But Elie also allegedly altered his identification card from the program to make himself look like an officer from Broward County.
A sheriff's department spokesperson told WPEC that Elie had been inactive from the program for about 10 months, but reported his volunteer identification as stolen instead of returning it. At no time did he have the power to make arrests, and the department did not pay for any of the alterations to his vehicle.
The suspect is charged with impersonating a public employee, impersonating a law enforcement officer, making a false report, unlawful use of a police badge and law enforcement vehicle, obstructing police and unlawful use of blue lights. His vehicle was confiscated.
Watch WPEC's report, aired on Friday, below.
[Image: Pistol and sheriffs badge via Shutterstock]