Former Lake Co. deputy accused of illegally recording ex-girlfriend

Former Lake Co. deputy accused of illegally recording ex-girlfriend

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — A Lake County Sheriff's Office detective was arrested Wednesday, charged with making secret recordings.

Jesse Souza was the subject of an investigation after accusations he secretly recorded the mother of his child, and others during an ongoing custody dispute.

Sheriff's officials said Souza is charged with unlawful interception of oral communication.

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They said he’s accused of secretly recording up to seven people, including his ex-girlfriend, her parents and her sister.

Officials said the recordings Souza is accused of making were not related to his work.

“He was places in an area where surveillance would be one of the key elements of his position,” said John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said he turned himself in at the sheriff's South Lake District Office after a warrant was issued.

Souza allegedly recorded his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Coursey, a Tavares police officer and mother of their young daughter, during child visitation exchanges.

The list of evidence includes thumb drives, CDs and cellphone video, first obtained when Coursey turned in a file given to her attorney in an ongoing custody battle with Souza.

Investigators found video and audio recordings of Coursey,  as well as other persons, made without their knowledge.

“The law prohibits anyone from secretly recording someone’s conversation without their knowledge while in a private setting,” Herrell said.

Herrell said the recordings had nothing to do with his duties as a deputy, nor did he use any county-issued equipment.

“A law enforcement officer should know better unless he has a court order,” said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

Souza, who submitted his resignation Wednesday, has been with the department since 2006 and most recently worked as a task force agent with Homeland Security, according to Sheriff's officials.
They said he was responsible for conducting international narcotics investigations.

Florida law makes it illegal to record someone's voice without their permission, when there is an expectation of privacy.

Souza has since bonded out of jail.