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Fla. woman arrested for impersonating police, handcuffing victim


March 22, 2007
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Fla. woman arrested for impersonating police, handcuffing victim

By Jerome Burdi
South Florida Sun-Sentinel 
Related Story:  Protecting the public from LE impersonators
 

Boca Raton police arrested a 21-year-old woman this week for impersonating a sheriff's deputy and conducting a traffic stop, complete with handcuffing a victim.

Web designer Rachel Otto, dressed in Army camouflage, had victim Michael Mellin, 20, cuffed on the floor because he cut her off, according to an arrest report.

"At first I wasn't going to argue with her, and I realized as time passed she wasn't a real cop," Mellin said.

Otto's was the second area arrest in two days for impersonating a police officer. On Monday U.S. Coast Guard Reservist Reginald Richard, 20, was arrested for posing as a police officer in Boynton Beach after he pulled over two women. They drove off and called police.

Otto -- a Boca Raton resident who has a criminal history of drug, assault and fraud charges -- is the granddaughter of Edgar Otto, a NASCAR co-founder. She would dress as a man named "Anthony" and fool even people she lived with, according to police reports. She wore her hair shaved to the skin around the sides, and with a short crop on top.

At about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Mellin, a home theater technician, was on his way home from a client's home in the 4000 block of Clint Moore Road, when he saw a BMW and a Honda speeding behind them, police reports said. He assumed they were racing and kept driving, he said.

At a traffic light he realized the cars were waiting for him. Otto walked up to the passenger-side window of Mellin's car and asked him for his driver's license and registration, police said. She had Mace and handcuffs on her belt, police said.

"She persisted to say she's PBSO and you're under arrest," Mellin said, adding that he thought Otto was a man. "I said, 'Yeah right, I'm out of here.'"

The two cars chased him and Otto pointed Mace at him, according to the police report. Mellin said he was boxed in.

Otto then cuffed him, police said.

A Boca Raton civilian community service traffic officer arrived to what seemed like an accident scene.

Otto initially told the traffic officer she was a deputy and was requesting backup and he told her police were on the way. When asked her for identification, she removed the handcuffs from Mellin and walked back to her 2000 BMW.

She said Mellin cut her off and that she was making a citizen's arrest for road rage. At that point she admitted she was not a police officer.

Citizens can make their own arrests in Florida, said Michael Edmondson, spokesman for the State Attorney's Office. But a citizen can't bring a suspect to the jail without notifying a law enforcement agency.

Otto is being held in county jail on $3,000 bail, charged with impersonation and false imprisonment. The driver of the Honda was not charged.

Otto also has a pending court case involving allegations that she pretended to be an attorney and charged her 70-year-old neighbor more than $10,000 for her "mediation" in a car crash, according to police reports.

In June, Eli Banoun, of Delray Beach, reported to police that Otto had committed a fraud against him.

He told police that a month after he was involved in a car crash, he found a note from Otto on his front door claiming that detectives came to her door asking about Banoun. The note urged Banoun to call Otto because she was a lawyer and wanted to discuss the fact that police alleged he left the scene of the crash and that alcohol was involved.

A woman then called Banoun, identifying herself as a detective, warning him he would be arrested if he did not pay money to the other party in the crash. Banoun then called Otto, who told him she could "mediate" the case.

Banoun gave Otto $2,000 of his own money and borrowed money from friends for a total of $10,600, to settle the case and pay Otto, according to police reports.

Staff Writer Nancy Othâ?“n and Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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