A Melbourne police officer suspected of arranging sexual encounters in his patrol car with at least three prostitutes during a year-long period has been fired.
Jose Otero, 42, was already on paid leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation but Melbourne Police Chief Steve Mimbs formally dismissed the officer in a hand-delivered notice, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.
“You are terminated from your employment as a police officer,” Mimbs wrote to Otero in a memo issued Friday.
The police department, which in recent years has focused on cleaning up the streets of prostitution, received tips about the on-duty officer’s suspected activities with women trading sex for cash or favors and placed him under surveillance.
Investigators determined that Otero would meet women women with records of soliciting prostitution and then take them to a secluded area in the 1000 block of South Harbor City Boulevard near the House of Lights and Home Accents store.
One video shows Otero standing next to his patrol car behind a thicket of palm fronds while talking to an unidentified woman.
Another video shows him driving along a Melbourne roadway at night being followed by surveillance officers in another car.
Otero, confronted by supervisors with the allegations, was ordered to turn over his badge, gun and equipment May 26.
The case was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which charged Otero with five misdemeanor counts of purchasing the services of a person engaged in prostitution, and one count each of setting up and maintaining a place for lewdness or prostitution and solicitation of prostitution, court records show.
Mimbs ordered a pre-termination hearing and invited Otero to present his side of the case. However, Otero, who earned an annual salary of $37,000 as a police officer, did not show.
Michael Bross, Otero’s attorney, maintains his client’s innocence and believes the three suspected prostitutes involved may be trying to get their own cases tossed out by the state attorney’s office.
Otero, who was hired in 2008, will have an Aug. 1 arraignment on the charges.