CENTRAL ISLIP - The trial has started for a former Suffolk police sergeant accused of robbing Latino drivers.
Investigators say Scott Greene pulled over dozens of Latino motorists in Coram and then took cash from their wallets. A surveillance video appears to show him taking money. The video was taken on surveillance cameras that the DA planted in a "bait car" in 2014.
The trial began with opening arguments from prosecutors, who say Greene stole from six Hispanic immigrants and an undercover investigator.
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Defense attorney Scott Gross said that Greene did steal $100 from that undercover investigator, but did not steal any money from immigrants. He said Scott Greene was having a "self-destructive day" and that he was motivated only by "money and opportunity."
"The hate crime is manufactured. It's a figment of the DA office's imagination. Never happened," said Gross.
The attorney says the district attorney's office "manufactured" the hate crime because Suffolk County was under an agreement with the federal government to "improve relations with the Hispanic community" after the murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero.
Gross says the immigrants who will testify against Sgt. Greene are lying about their money being stolen in order to gain citizenship.
A total of 21 Latinos have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Greene and other members of the Suffolk Police Department. Greene faces up to 20 years if convicted.