• Legal expert believes Winter Park sergeant charged with stealing from dead man will not avoid prison

    By: Cierra Putman

    Updated:

    WINTER PARK, Fla. - A sergeant with the Winter Park Police Department is facing a charge of grand theft after he allegedly stole $101 from a dead man at a crime scene, officials said.

    The incident allegedly occurred in 2011 when Sgt. Frank Cowart responded to a crime scene.

    The theft accusation first came out in 2015 when Cowart’s wife mentioned it during divorce proceedings, investigators said.

    The department conducted an internal investigation but no charges were ever filed against the 14-year veteran of the force.

    In March 2017, though, Cowart’s now ex-wife found evidence boxes and turned them over to the Winter Park Police Department.

    The case was given to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted a seven-month investigation that resulted in the grand theft charge.

    While the amount of money may seem inconsequential, WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said the implications for the Police Department are very serious.

    “It’s a big deal,” Sheaffer said. “In all probability, the state will ask for some prison time. They want to set an example, they want to deter (others).”

    The State Attorney’s Office had not received documents in the case Monday and could not say if it would have to review or reopen past cases involving Cowart.

    Sheaffer was sure some sort of review would take place.

    “You can bet they will look into any cases they have with him, or had with him,” Sheaffer said, adding that he didn’t expect any major changes to past cases. “I don’t think we’re going to see a ripple effect from this case.”

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