Former cop charged with impersonating DATE officer

Paul W. Lacurts

LAUREL — A 60-year-old former Laurel policeman turned himself in nearly a month after allegedly impersonating a law enforcement agent in a bar, authorities said,

According to the Delaware Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, Georgetown resident Paul W. Lacurts was identified as a suspect who allegedly claimed to be an investigating agent at American Legion Post 19 on Feb. 5.

Investigation found that Mr. Lacurts was allegedly drinking in the American Legion bar when he began “acting/speaking in an inappropriate manner,” DATE Sgt. Kevin Jones said.

A bartender reportedly confronted Mr. Lacurts about the alleged behavior and stopped serving him alcohol, DATE said. At that point, according to authorities, Mr. Lacurts claimed to be an ex-Laurel police officer and current DATE agent “conducting an over-service investigation and therefore could not be denied alcoholic service,” according to Mr. Jones.

The bartender took Mr. Lacurts’ photo, which allegedly prompted him to try to take the phone away, DATE said. Mr. Lacurts left the bar soon afterward, investigation found.

Two days later, a former Delaware State Police trooper related to the bartender contacted DATE to report the incident.

With the photo as evidence, Sgt. Jones said DATE checked with Laurel Police and confirmed Mr. Lacurts had worked at the department about 25 years ago sometime in the late 1980s to early 1990s. He had never worked for DATE and was not an American Legion member, authorities said.

A driver’s license check listed Mr. Lacurts with a Norristown, Pennsylvania address. Authorities there confirmed his identity and knew of him, Sgt. Jones said, but did not locate Mr. Lacurts at his listed address.

Local investigation continued, Sgt. Jones said, and Mr. Lacurts was found to have recently re-located to Georgetown.

He was contacted by DATE and turned himself in voluntarily last Saturday to face a felony criminal impersonation of a police officer charge.

The nonviolent Class E felony has a presumptive sentence of up to 12 months of Level II probation, nine months with acceptance of responsibility.

The statutory range is 0 to 5 years in prison. Mr. Lacurts was released on a $1,000 unsecured bail pending a future court date.

Sgt. Jones said the impersonation case was unusual in that a suspect was identified and charged with an offense.

“We’ve heard of a few times here and there where someone [claims to be a DATE agent], but people get away with it because we’re not able to get any further information to investigate,” Sgt. Jones said.

Pretending to be a DATE officer is a significant offense, authorities said. The unknown motivation to misrepresent oneself might be part of further criminal actions, according to Sgt. Jones.

“We take it very seriously,” Sgt. Jones said. “Trying to get a few extra drinks is one thing, but the question is what other intentions do they have.”

Officers are in plainclothes during approximately 90 percent of operations, and their official work could be hampered if others are wary due to past impersonation issues, Sgt. Jones said.

“This could undermine their credibility down the road is someone doesn’t believe an officer is who he says he is,” Sgt. Jones said.

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