A former sheriff’s deputy in Florida was arrested Wednesday on charges that he routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, planted drugs and then arrested them on made-up drug charges.
Former Jackson County deputy Zachary Wester, 26, was arrested in Crawford, Florida after a nearly year-long investigation, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
FDLE began its investigation last August at the request of Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Former Jackson County deputy Zachary Wester, 26, (pictured), was arrested on charges routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, planted drugs in their vehicles and then arrested them on made-up drug charges
It found that Wester routinely pulled over citizens for alleged minor traffic infractions, planted drugs inside their vehicles and arrested them on fabricated drug charges.
He also circumvented JCSO’s body camera policy and tailored his recordings to conceal his criminal activity.
Authorities began investigating him after noticing his name as arresting officer on a disproportionate number of drug arrests.
Christina Pumphrey, a former assistant state attorney in Marianna who was involved in the case, was reported as being concerned that his vehicle searches were not always conducted legally, and his written affidavits did not always match what she would watch in video footage.
‘There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,’ Chris Williams, an assistant special agent in charge for the FDLE in Pensacola, said in a statement.
‘I would like to thank the citizens of Jackson County for their patience during the investigation and my staff for continuing to serve our citizens during this difficult time,” said Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts.
‘I also appreciate FDLE and the State Attorney’s Office for their commitment to this investigation.’
Wester faces felony charges of racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment.
Teresa Odom, (pictured), was arrested by on charges including possession of meth in February 2018. Her sentence was later vacated by a judge
Authorities began investigating Odom after noticing his name as arresting officer on a disproportionate number of drug arrests
He is also charged with misdemeanor perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Wester was hired in May 2016 and worked as a patrol deputy. He worked as a Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputy from August 2015 until he joined JCSO.
He was fired from The Sheriff’s Office on September 10 for violating agency policy, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
During the investigation, FDLE agents analyzed over 1,300 minutes of recorded video and logged over 1,400 working hours on the case.
Wester was booked into the Wakulla County Jail and is being held without bond. The Office of the State Attorney, First Judicial Circuit, will prosecute the case, which authorities said remains active.
Odom’s sentence was was vacated in September 2018 and she filed notice in November that year of her intent to sue the Sheriff’s Office
The Tallahassee Democrat reported in September 2018 that charges in at least two dozen cases were dropped, but authorities claimed at the time that the case against Wester was not over.
Christina Pumphrey told the Tallahasee Democrat that she was ‘incredibly surprised’ to learn of his arrest because she didn’t think he’d ever get charged.
She said: ‘I’m glad he’s off the road. I’m glad he’s obviously facing charges. It doesn’t change what the rest of the people went through because of him.
‘It doesn’t give them their time back. It doesn’t give them their money back. It doesn’t expunge their records — they still have at least arrest histories. But it’s still something.’
Authorities are expected to release more details about the case at a conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Body camera footage was also released from the arrest of Teresa Odom on charges including possession of meth in September 2018.
Odom pleaded no contest to the charges and she was sentenced to four years of probation.
However, her sentence was vacated in September. She filed notice in November 2018 of her intent to sue the Sheriff’s Office, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Prosecutors also dropped charges in September 2018 against Monica Willis, who was arrested by Wester on March 28 after a traffic stop.
His arrest report stated that he found two silver colored spoons in her purse along with a baggie that field-tested positive for meth.
She said she was two weeks pregnant at the time of the arrest, Wester noted, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.