Two former Columbus vice officers arrested on civil rights violations, wire fraud charges

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Columbus vice detective relieved of assignment

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Two former Columbus Police Department vice squad officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to violate others’ civil rights and conspiring to commit wire fraud.

Steven G. Rosser, 43, of Delaware, and Whitney R. Lancaster, 57, of Columbus, were both arrested without incident Tuesday.

Rosser was a 19-year employee of the CPD, working in the vice unit as a detective from April 2013 to November 2018.

Lancaster was employed with CPD for 31 years, working as a detective in the vice unit from February 2016 to November 2018.

“The indictment alleges that these two former law enforcement officers abused their badges and deprived individuals of their Constitutional rights,” said U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers in a statement issued Tuesday. “We will root out any alleged bad actors acting under color of law and are grateful to the vast majority of officers who do the honorable work of protecting us and the Constitution.”

According to the federal indictment, in March 2015, Rosser was involved in a physical fight with an individual at Nick’s Cabaret, a gentleman’s club on East Dublin Granville Road. Rosser allegedly represented that he was acting as a police officer during the fight and in the days that followed.

The indictment alleges that Rosser conspired with others to deprive the other participant in that fight of his civil rights by having him seized and searched without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

Based on a report that Rosser wrote regarding the fight, officers arrested that individual in April 2015, and he was detained at the Franklin County jail for approximately five days before the charges against him were ultimately dismissed.

The indictment also alleges that in April 2018, Rosser, Lancaster, and others conspired to deprive one of the owners of the Dollhouse, a gentleman’s club on Karl Court, of his civil rights by seizing and searching him and his vehicle without probable cause, again in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Finally, the indictment alleges that both defendants conspired to commit wire fraud by routinely reporting false and fraudulent special duty hours.

Specifically, in January 2018, the Fort Rapids hotel, restaurant and indoor water-park complex on Corporate Drive in Columbus, suffered a fire-sprinkler break that led to extensive flooding. As a result, the Columbus Division of Fire ordered a 24-hour per day “fire watch” by qualified personnel to monitor the site for further damage and safety issues.

It is alleged that Rosser and Lancaster routinely reported to the Fort Rapids ownership group that they were working special duty during dates and times that they also reported they were on duty working their regular shifts as CPD officers. The two officers allegedly double-billed Fort Rapids and the Columbus Division of Police on 29 days between January and May 2018.

Conspiracy to violate a person’s civil rights is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The Columbus vice squad was disbanded in March of 2019 as the result of mishandling the arrest of Stormy Daniels and the allegations against vice squad officer Andrew Mitchell, as well as other allegations against the department.

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