Former Texas DPS Trooper Sentenced for Violating Civil Rights

Apr 20, 2010, 13:49 ET from U.S. Department of Justice

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, April 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A former Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper has been sentenced to four years in prison for depriving multiple motorists of their civil rights, U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas E. Perez announced today. Michael Anthony Higgins, 43, formerly of the Corpus Christi area, was found guilty on Jan. 13, 2010, by a jury's verdict on all four counts of the indictment of willfully stealing money from motorists he stopped on the highway while working as a trooper.

In addition to the four-year prison term, U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey ordered Higgins to pay $850 restitution, representing the money he took from the motorists, and will serve a one-year-term of supervised releases following completion of his prison term. Upon motion of the government, Judge Rainey ordered Higgins, previously released on bond, to be immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Higgins was prosecuted for stopping motorists who appeared to be of Hispanic descent and stealing their money, usually in amounts of several hundred dollars. As a result of the civilian complaints, DPS, in conjunction with the Texas Rangers, initiated an undercover operation to investigate Higgins. An undercover officer posed as a civilian of Hispanic descent with limited English language ability and was issued several pre-recorded $100 bills. While being monitored by DPS aerial surveillance, the undercover officer drove past Higgins' duty area in Kleberg County and was eventually stopped by Higgins. Upon making the traffic stop, Higgins asked the undercover officer for money in his possession and then took the money behind the passenger side door of his patrol vehicle.

After Higgins returned bills to the officer, the officer realized that some of the money was missing. Texas Rangers and DPS officers confronted Higgins and, upon inspection of the patrol vehicle, found two of the pre-recorded $100 bills secreted in the passenger side door pocket which was next to the area where Higgins had gone to count the money.

The case was investigated by the FBI, Texas Rangers and Officers of the Texas DPS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruben Perez of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas and Trial Attorney Jim Felte from the Civil Rights Division.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice