Former Hempstead Police Officer Robert Van Wyen has been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to stealing an encrypted police radio. Prosecutors say he’d intended to sell it to a towing company for thousands of dollars. He was ordered to pay $9,000 in restitution. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd has the story. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A judge sentenced a former Hempstead police officer to five years of probation Thursday after he admitted earlier this year that he stole an encrypted police radio that prosecutors said he planned to sell to a towing company for $10,000.

State Supreme Court Justice Angelo Delligatti also ordered Robert Van Wyen, 34, of Islip, to pay $9,000 in restitution as he announced the former officer's penalty in Nassau County Court.

In January, Van Wyen resigned from his police job after pleading guilty to felony charges of grand larceny and possessing stolen property and misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and using the device without authorization.

Prosecutors recommended 1 to 3 years in jail for Van Wyen, but the judge said he considered in part that the defendant had lost his job and now was a felon when deciding against jail time.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Thursday that Van Wyen "violated his oath to his department and community." She added that his actions "could have put other police officers and first responders at risk" if an investigation hadn't thwarted his attempt to sell the device.

Authorities said a towing company could use a police radio — which provides access to scrambled, confidential communications — to learn about crashes before competitors and potentially earn thousands of dollars.

The radio Van Wyen stole from Hempstead village's police force was equipped with encryption technology from the Nassau County Police Department, according to law enforcement officials. The theft happened between January 2016 and March 2017 and a grand jury indicted him in March 2019.

Van Wyen became a police officer in 2010, was shot in the line of duty in 2011, and was on disability at the time of his indictment, according to his attorney, Anthony La Pinta.

The defense attorney also said previously that his client won the police force’s highest award after the shooting, which he said happened as the officer tried to capture a robber.

"Clearly this is a big mistake that was made by a public servant," La Pinta told the judge Thursday, saying his client had let down fellow law enforcement officers but would be a "model probationer."

The attorney added after court that Van Wyen had "loved being a police officer" and helping people stay safe but "somewhere along the line that was derailed." Van Wyen declined to address the judge and also didn't comment leaving court.

Prosecutor Melissa Scannell said in court that Van Wyen made a deal with a confidential informant who was working for authorities to exchange the radio for $10,000, including $1,000 for the informant.

Before Delligatti ruled on restitution, a detective testified about prepping the informant to exchange cash for the radio after authorities had recorded the serial numbers of the bills.

Van Wyen is only one of several Hempstead officials who have faced criminal charges recently.

Among those also indicted were Hempstead Police Chief Paul Johnson, who pleaded not guilty in May 2019 in connection with an alleged ticket-fixing scam. In 2018, Deputy Police Chief Richard Holland pleaded not guilty to a bribery charge. Court records show both those corruption cases remain pending.

Former Hempstead Village Trustee Perry Pettus is serving 2 and 1/3 to 7 years in prison after his January sentencing on charges including bribe receiving, grand larceny, conspiracy and official misconduct.

Latest videos