The FBI is investigating a former Florida police officer accused of using federal databases to pursue women romantically.
Officials say 36-year-old Leonel Marines tracked down hundreds of women with driver’s license and vehicle registration databases used by law enforcement nationwide.
The former police sergeant resigned in October in the middle of an internal affairs investigation, but his legal troubles could just be starting.
“This is truly a disturbing situation for me as chief,” Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan said.
Bradenton police say an internal audit revealed Marines, a 12-year veteran of the force, abused law enforcement resources to prowl for women. That included social media stalking and even home visits, reports CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste.
Bevan said Marines “was very persistent – and successful at times.”
Last June, a woman and her parents filed a complaint after they said Marines followed her home that triggered an investigation of his database searches.
Police say they discovered several hundred questionable database searches on women and eventually interviewed nearly 150 women associated with the investigation.
“It also revealed that this behavior may have been going on for years, stretching as far back as 2012,” Bevan said.
Marines was put on administrative leave before he resigned last October. Kelli Blake was one of the women Marines searched for but did not contact.
“I was creeped out a little bit, yeah,” Blake said. “I just think it’s really weird that somebody would like do that.”
“It’s a violation of privacy. It’s a violation of professional ethics. It’s a violation of the codes of conduct of every police department I can think of,” said Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout, a cybersecurity provider.
“What can a police department do to combat something like this happening?” Battiste asked.
“They can be stricter with the way they permit people to access their databases,” Levin said. “When you have cases like this where that access is abused, that privilege is abused, that undermines people’s faith in law enforcement.”
Marines did not return our calls for comment. He could face criminal charges.