Two Hispanic men testified Wednesday that money was missing from their wallets after they were searched during traffic stops by a Suffolk County police sergeant.
Marco Guallpa, 37, of Hauppauge, said he went to the local precinct to report that $120 was missing after he was stopped in Coram on Sept. 8, 2013, by Sgt. Scott Greene.
Guallpa, an Ecuadorean immigrant, testified in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip, where Greene, since retired, is on trial, accused of larceny as a hate crime and other crimes.
Prosecutors say more than 20 motorists were targeted because they looked Hispanic, were in cars with out-of-state license plates and were unlikely to file a complaint.
Brookhaven Town resident Fernando Galvez Valencia, 39, who came to Suffolk from Mexico five years ago, told the jury he was a passenger in a car with Mississippi plates that Greene stopped on Aug. 30, 2013, in Farmingville. A $100 bill was missing from his wallet after Greene returned it to him, Valencia said.
The driver of that car, Samuel Contreras, 46, a native of Mexico City, followed Valencia to the witness stand and confirmed most details of the story.
Contreras, also from Brookhaven, said he could not determine whether any money was missing from his wallet when Greene returned it.
Contreras and Valencia said they did not come forward until there was publicity following Greene’s arrest on Jan. 30, 2014, in a sting operation prompted by earlier complaints.
Guallpa said he went to the local police precinct that night to report his missing money — which two officers confirmed on the witness stand Wednesday. But the witness said he left without filing a formal complaint because he was running late for work.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Scott Gross of Garden City, Guallpa said he could not remember if he had once been convicted of patronizing a prostitute, or the name of the woman he spent two hours with in a club earlier on the night of the traffic stop.
Gross told jurors in his opening statement that Greene, 52, of Shirley, committed misdemeanor larceny but didn’t target Hispanics and is innocent of felony hate crimes.
Contreras and Valencia said during cross-examination that they were among the 21 Hispanic men who filed a federal lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department. That suit seeks monetary damages on grounds that the men had been targeted for traffic stops because of their ethnicity.
Both said the district attorney’s office has helped them file paperwork which could lead to visas that would legalize their immigration status.
Gross said the jury should question the veracity of their testimony because they stood to gain financially in the suit, and prosecutors could revoke their visa applications if they failed to cooperate.