WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - More than a dozen people in the Orlando area have been caught impersonating police officers in recent years, and authorities say the imposters go as far as buying fake uniforms and equipment.
Officer Cody Hudson was patrolling Winter Garden one evening last September when a Dodge Charger with flashing red and blue lights mounted on the front windshield sped up behind him.
"I yielded and then he passed by," Hudson later told a colleague as he described what he originally thought was a fellow police officer driving an unmarked patrol car. "(The lights) are just as bright as ours."
But as the car continued cruising down the road at nearly double the speed limit, Hudson said he noticed it had a decorative license plate cover not commonly found on law enforcement vehicles and a tag number than traced back to a privately owned vehicle.
When Hudson stopped the vehicle, the man behind the wheel claimed to work for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, video footage of the traffic stop shows.
"I'm FDLE," said the driver, who was identified by Winter Garden police as Albert Michael Dolan.
Dolan, 53, does not really work for the state law enforcement agency, authorities said.
Instead, he's among the list of more than a dozen Central Floridians arrested in the recent years for allegedly impersonating police officers, including the following:
In January of last year, Ka'mesha Nicole Byrde wore a green shirt that read "deputy sheriff" and carried a gun as she visited homes in The Villages last year, according to authorities.
In 2016, Humberto Javier Santiago was working for a car dealership as an unofficial repo man when he showed a vehicle owner a badge and handcuffs while attempting to take possession of the car, investigators said.
Abdiel Mendez wore a radio ear piece and displayed a gold badge in 2014 when he attempted to collect rent money owed to his father, according to investigators.
Brevard County authorities said Thristian Brumby wore an Orlando Police Department shirt with his name printed on it and was carrying a badge and fake guns when he was arrested in 2015.
Investigators said Ramy Nashaat-Youself Hanna told women he was an undercover police officer in 2016 while attempting to get them into his vehicle.
In Dolan's case, it was the flashing police lights that first caught the attention of a real law enforcement officer.
"You shall not have any type of blue light anywhere on your vehicle," News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Steven Montiero said. "The second you turn them on, whether you pull someone over or not, you're looking at (the possibility of being charged with) impersonating a police officer."
Under Florida law, motorists using flashing blue lights on a public road can be charged with a misdemeanor.
However, if authorities believe the driver used the lights to impersonate a law enforcement officer, the offender can face a felony charge punishable by up to five years in prison.
Red and blue police-style lights can be found for sale online. News 6 bought a set from Amazon for less than $25.
"Can you legally buy these? Absolutely," Montiero said. "But should you? No."
In December, a judge sentenced Dolan to probation after he pleaded no contest to impersonating a police officer and driving under the influence.
One month later, Orlando police said they caught Dolan once again driving drunk in his Dodge Charger outfitted with red and blue lights.
"He stated that he saw that we (the police) had someone detained down the road and wanted to make sure we were OK," the officer wrote in the report.
As officers attempted to conduct a DUI test, Dolan said he was going to leave and got in his car and drove the wrong way down North John Young Parkway, according to the report.
Dolan drove down the highway at a slow speed, allowing the OPD officer to pass him and block the Dodge Charger. Dolan crashed into the patrol car, police said.
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