- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Two former vice officers in Ohio’s capital city have been charged with civil rights violations for their alleged actions during strip club investigations, according to a federal indictment that also accused them of double billing the city for special duty work.

The charges against Steven Rosser and Whitney Lancaster represented the latest fallout from the 2018 arrest of porn actress Stormy Daniels at Sirens, a Columbus strip club. The allegations in Tuesday’s federal indictment arose from investigations that began into the now-disbanded vice unit following Daniels’ arrest.

Charges were dropped within hours of her arrest, and Daniels later won $450,000 from the city after she sued over her treatment. In January, the city fired Rosser and Lancaster after the filing of administrative charges that said Daniels’ arrest “deviated significantly” from investigations at other strip clubs.

Tuesday’s indictment accuses Rosser, 43, of writing a false report in April 2015 alleging an employee of Nick’s Cabaret threatened him, a report that caused the man to be jailed for five days before the charge was dropped.

In 2018, Rosser and Lancaster, 57, illegally searched the owner of another strip club, the Dollhouse, and the owner’s vehicle, without probable cause, while conducting a drug investigation, according to the indictment.

The officers are also accused of double-billing the owners of a Columbus water park and the city by reporting they were working special duty at the water park during 2018 at the same time they were working city police shifts.

Rosser pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court. His attorney, Robert Krapenc, declined to comment. Lancaster, who does not yet have an attorney, could not be reached. Both were released on their own recognizance.

In January, the owners of a now-closed strip club, Kahoots, sued Columbus police, alleging Rosser and Lancaster targeted and retaliated against the club’s owners over the firing of a bouncer.

Another former member of the vice squad, Andrew Mitchell, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of forcing women to have sex with him under threat of an arrest, and state charges of accusing him of fatally shooting a woman during an undercover prostitution investigation.

Last year, Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan set up a new vice program that focuses on getting prostitutes into programs to help them off the streets. Officers rotate through the revamped vice team and uniformed officers must be present for an arrest.

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