Who Needs a Warrant? Florida Cop Dresses As Power Company Repairman to Gain Access to Home

A deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is under heavy scrutiny this week after admitting that he impersonated a Progress Energy employee in order to search a Florida man's property for marijuana.

Detective Paul Giovannoni borrowed a uniform from a Progress Energy employee with the intent of knocking on the homeowner's front door and sniffing his vestibule for traces of marijuana. Instead, reports the Tampa Bay Times, the resident asked Gioavannoni to come around to the side of his property and take a look at his power meter. 

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri has condemned Giovannoni's behavior: 

"I was appalled by it," Gualtieri said Wednesday. "I think it's wrong. It's not what we should have been doing at all." He said he did not know of the incident until contacted this week by the Times.

Gualtieri said that he instituted a new policy Wednesday preventing deputies from using corporate uniforms without permission from their own supervisors and "express written permission of that corporate entity."

Gualtieri also told the Tampa Bay Times (one of America's finest newspapers) that Giovannoni's actions were "contrary to good policing and respecting individual rights and it's wrong." And yet, the sheriff doesn't yet know if he'll discipline Giovannoni, "a young detectice" who was "just being creative," or Giovannoni's direct supervisor, a corporal who thought it was OK to have Giovannoni play Fletch sans warrant "because Progress Energy would have the right to go up to their own meter during normal business hours to do it, so that's where I was falling under the assumption that he would be able to do that."

A sposkesperson for Progress Energy, which fired the employee who lent his uniform to the detective, told the Times that the company "doesn't permit or support anyone, including law enforcement, to pose as employees."

This incident is one in a series, according to attorney John Trevena: 

But the revelation follows others about tactics the Sheriff's Office used while investigating "grow houses," and conducting surveillance on the Simply Hydroponics shop in Largo. The Sheriff's Office used a camera outside the store, which has since been removed, to gather information on customers. In one of the investigations, a deputy was suspended for five days for mishandling evidence.

Attorney John Trevena, who conducted the interview of the detective, called a deposition, called it "indicative of problems with the narcotics unit at the Sheriff's Office that go beyond just this trespassing incident. … It is apparent now that this is a rogue unit, and there needs to be an outside agency to investigate."

Reason on Florida, the greatest state. 

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  • ||

    It's all ball bearings nowadays.

  • ||

    Hey! It's all ball bearings nowadays. Now you prepare that Fetzer valve with some 3-in-1 oil and some gauze pads. And I'm gonna need 'bout ten quarts of anti-freeze, preferably Prestone. No, no make that Quaker State.

  • ||

    "Well, the traffic was murder, you know. One of those manure spreaders jackknifed on the Santa Ana. Godawful mess. You should see my shoes. WUUUCCHH"

  • kilroy||

  • ||

    "Have you ever tried simply turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?"

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Well it ain't my fault. I'm a non-voting felon, thank you.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Is it Bender, or Bender's body with Richard Nixon's head?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    That dirty, double-crossing bastard! How dare he run off with Richard Nixon!

  • ||

    When the team tried to get into the terminal server, they noticed there was an attack coming from Iran; they traced the IP address to the Persian Gulf University. The team realized the Iranians were getting in with one of the default admin logins (user: admin, password: admin). To stop the outside attacks the team blocked the offending IP address with iptables (a piece of software for server admins) and replaced the admin password with something more challenging. The team also blocked similar attacks launched from New Jersey, India, and China.

    I don't know whether to be frightened or relieved.

  • ||

    BOMB THEM!

  • ||

    Yes, bomb them. Just make sure to do it in reverse alphabetical order.

  • Doctor Whom||

    It would have to be an improvement. Anything would.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "He was elected when he promised not to kill humans."
    "And like most politicians, he promised more than he delivered."

  • ||

    Gualtieri said that he instituted a new policy Wednesday preventing deputies from using corporate uniforms without permission from their own supervisors and "express written permission of that corporate entity."

    What about warrants? Still optional?

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were, somewhere on the books, a law making it a felony for somebody to "impersonate" a utility worker in order to gain entry to a private residence.

    I await news of the arraignment.

  • sarcasmic||

    I remember a while back a state trooper round here had taken dealer plates off a car that he pulled over and put them on his cruiser.

    Several laws were broken there.

    Nothing else happened.

  • ||

    I remember a while back a state trooper round here had taken dealer plates off a car that he pulled over and put them on his cruiser.

    Uh....why would they do this? Obviously it's illegal and wrong, but why?

  • RBS||

    Yeah, it would make more sense if he put them on his personal car.

  • sarcasmic||

    His stated reason was to blend in.

    Like a crown vic with a search light and three antennas sticking out of the trunk couldn't be a trooper because it doesn't have government plates.

    How stupid does he think people are?

  • ||

    As stupid as he is, apparently.

  • ||

    Was that before or after he whispered in your ear?

  • GILMORE||

    I once ripped that label thingy off the bottom of a mattress that you're not supposed to.

    I've been on the run for 26 years.

  • R||

    You in Oregon, or do other states have different plates for their .gov vehicles too?

  • Andrew||

    Speaking of E plates. There needs to be a requirement for the operating entity and contact number to be visiblely posted along with a statement that the vehicle is for official use only. Not that it stops the fleet of DAS vehicles being driven into Salem every morning from Portland.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm not sure why he's so outraged by the uniform thing. Was he threatened by litigation from Progress Energy or something?

  • JHC||

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were, somewhere on the books, a law making it a felony for somebody to "impersonate" a utility worker in order to gain entry to a private residence.

    Elected officials and police would be exempted anyway.

  • Matt||

    Wasn't there a big thing with that one kid who made the Acorn tapes dressed up like a phone worker and got caught? Didn't he get in a lot of shit for that?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Progress Energy would have the right to go up to their own meter during normal business hours to do it, so that's where I was falling under the assumption that he would be able to do that.

    That's how it works, huh? I'm gonna go put on a police uniform and then start pulling over people, because a police officer would have the right to do so.

  • T||

    Well, if they can do it, the cops can do it, because they're not special and cops are!

  • rather||

    But the revelation follows others about tactics the Sheriff's Office used while investigating "grow houses," and conducting surveillance on the Simply Hydroponics shop in Largo. The Sheriff's Office used a camera outside the store, which has since been removed, to gather information on customers.

    Was it replaced with a drone yet?

  • jasno||

    No, they just park a cruiser with vehicle license plate tracking installed and wait.

  • The Other Kevin||

    I'm not sure if this is just selective reporting in H&R, but why does it seem like all these abuses of power are done in search of pot plants or drugs? You never see "Cops storm house, shoot man suspected of murder", or "Cops storm house, shoot dog of man suspected of fatal hit and run."

  • Tim||

    Maybe because if you got pot in your house the cops get to seize it and by stuff like speedboats and assault rifles.

  • ||

    I'm waiting for the story where the cops seize pot for not having been grown in accordance with state medical-marijuana laws, then sell the pot to the medical MJ dispensaries, using the proceeds for speedboats and assault rifles.

  • sarcasmic||

    One excuse for storming houses in body armor with automatic weapons (besides it being fun) is to prevent evidence from being destroyed or flushed.

    With a murder or hit and run suspect they can afford to wait until he comes out to check the mail.

  • ||

    In early-2K, during a predictable census-takers-are-government-spies handwringing, two pigs disguised themselves as census workers to gain access to a home.(!)

    The local paper buried the incident deep into the local news, with just a very short paragraph describing the incident and tha Chief stammering his apologies.

    Talking to friends and colleagues, it was apparent that I was one of the few who heard about it.

  • Tim||

    Got yer buddy fired, nice going asshole.

  • jasno||

    That's the best part of the story. Lesson: never cooperate with LE.

  • ||

    You're supposed to ask for ID from utility employees, and I'm assuming this cop didn't get a forged ID as well.

    Not blaming the homeowner, just pointing out some good advice. In any case, any charges based on finding marijuana in the house during this charade would have been thrown out in court.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    How would a license help?

  • ||

    I was referring to their employee ID.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Do they issue employee IDs? I've never had a job where they did this (although I've also never worked at an utility company).

  • jasno||

    It's good that he didn't ask for an ID or we might never have heard about this.

  • a statist slaver||

    Who Needs a Warrant?

    That's a very reasonable question, and in response -- OMG WAR ON DRUGS!!! The Constitution is not a suicide pact, and if even only one life is saved, it will all have been worth it.

  • ||

    Consequences are for little people.

    And Florida is the greatest state, so piss off.

    As a local, I feel vindicated about telling my wife that setting up hydroponics to grow tomatoes and peppers was too dangerous. I had visions of the cops napalming us by mistake.

  • H man||

    I thought you liked the smell of napalm in the morning.

  • Killazontherun||

    Probably doesn't care to have it own him!

  • ||

    Not in my house.

  • ||

    What I'd really love to see is some state, be it, by a sudden political flux, Texas or New Hampshire, completely legalize and deregulate all narcotics, and then forcefully protect themselves against the feds trying to 'set them straight".

  • Gojira||

    Lots of luck seeing that happen in Texas.

    Team Blue sucks hard cock, but the one thing I'll give them is, their states seem to be the ones most down with the MJ (there are exceptions of course like Alaska, Arizona, etc, I'm saying the majority of states that do so are left-leaning).

    Here in Texas, if you're even suspected of having known someone who once talked about perhaps having done drugs, you have a file on you with the local PD and sheriff's office.

  • Killazontherun||

    True on the West Coast but try lighting up a joint in NYC or Boston, or Bluer than Blue Baltimore, you'll see there is absolutely beyond no difference in the two teams.

  • Gojira||

    Delaware and RI are down with the green, and they're east coast. Again, I was speaking in generalities.

  • Killazontherun||

    And you can't get arrested puffing away on the steps of the Asheville, NC Court House. Then again, that is a blue strong hold so, and NC went blue in 2010, so, fuck, I proved your point.

  • jasno||

    I thought it was OK as long as you're white?

  • DK||

    Lesson for Progress Energy employee: join the police if you want job security.

  • robc||

    Lets see if the police follow up on Progress Energy's example. Im guessing no.

  • Whiny Liberal Griefer||

    "buildup of gook"

    Raaaaacist!!!

  • Rev. Al Sharpton||

    Dem crackas loves to be racist! DEY WAS DA ONES EATIN' DA PIE!!!

  • GILMORE||

    ..Giovannoni's direct supervisor, a corporal who thought it was OK to have Giovannoni play Fletch sans warrant "because Progress Energy would have the right to go up to their own meter during normal business hours to do it..."

    Ahh.

    Does progress energy also have the right to pull a gun and arrest you, throw you in jail, testify against you in court?

    Does the 'consumer' of these police have the option to stop using their 'services' and opt for others?

    Teh Law...how does it work?

  • ||

    STOP RESISTING. *Thrusts pelvis violently at Gilmore's dog*.

  • Brian D||

    Oh well, guess Florida cops will have to go back to masquerading as high-schoolers and seducing honor students.

  • ||

    The sad thing about that is he didn't even get as much as a blow job from that cop.

  • Lt. Daniels||

    You show loyalty, they learn loyalty. You show them it's about the work, it'll be about the work. You show them some other kinda game, then that's the game they'll play.

  • ||

    Its PUNK cops like this I just LVOE to hear about in the news that get clipped in the line of duty, Worthless P O S

    www.Went-Anon.tk

  • ||

    Totally expected this to be a search for a bomb or some kidnapped child or a murder clue.

    Instead it was pot. What a putz.

  • ||

    It was an attempted burglary. He tried to entry an occupied dwelling without consent (fraud vitiates any permission). In most states that's a FELONY even if the burglar isn't successful.

    Wnat do you want to bet he's not prosecuted by the District Attorney. [b]Special deals for special people.[/b] The POLICE are above the law. It just doesn't apply to them.

  • ||

    You know what, I'd be fine with him not being prosecuted, provided that he and his supervisor both tender their resignations immediately, and agree that they will accept no severance or retirement benefits. And the supervisor resigning is not negotiable- he has a responsibility to know about this, and if he didn't order it, he was derelict for allowing it to happen, and therefore deserves to be fired regardless.

  • ||

    He naturally won't do jailtime.

  • ||

    This is awful! He must be disciplined! Oh... what's that? The cop was looking for teh evil dope? All is excused. Nothing to see here, citizens.

  • ||

    You have to understand Pinellas County - it's God's waiting room. That sheriff gets elected because he gets them dope smokers off the streets.
    Imagine your electorate is thousands of Emily Latellas, and then everything makes sense.

  • ||

    The cops will use any excuse to enter a private dwelling. They scan for guns, ashtrays contents,anything that is drug related.If you have a home emergency,they
    will enter with the EMT's, saying they
    are there to "assist".

  • ||

    Lying to manipulate a suspect is lawful and standard police practice. How is donning a Halloween costume any different from lying? We're splitting hairs here.

  • ||

    The Tampa Bay Times is most assuredly NOT "one of America's finest newspapers" and has done far more to undermine the freedom of American citizens than this idiot cop.

  • Brendan||

    I wonder what would happen to an average citizen who posed up as a utility worker and gained entry to a house or property in order to see if the person in that house was having an affair or in violation of HOA regs or CC&Rs;.

    I doubt I could get away with posing as a cable repairman and gaining entry to a property to check on the people in a house because my buddy thinks one of them is having an affair with his wife.

    I think there would be charges of trespassing or (if available) entry under false pretenses.

  • ||

    In many other jurisdictions where the letter of the law is strictly adhered to by judicial officers, such an illegal action would immeidiately obviate any information found in a court case relating to such evidence.

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