The Indiana State Police raid on Lakes of the Four Seasons security last week isn't the first time the gated community's handling of drunken driving cases has come into question.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office expressed frustration with Four Seasons security after failing to report a 2010 apparent drunken driving case involving a resident who went on to kill a Lake County jailer two years later in an unrelated intoxicated driving case.
When a Four Seasons security officer pulled over a man for speeding in the gated community some nine summers ago, the resident's car reportedly reeked of alcohol.
The June 6, 2010, incident report noted suspect Jason Cozmanoff had bloodshot eyes, rambling speech and allegedly admitted to having consumed a couple of drinks when questioned by the security guard.
Cozmanoff failed a field sobriety test administered by the guard and blew a .126, well above the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08, the security report noted.
The LOFS security officer did not call in the county sheriff to assist and investigate the apparent drunken driving incident, but instead fined Cozmanoff “$200 for OWI,” issued a speeding warning and allowed him to contact his father to take him home, according to the report obtained by The Times in 2014.
In December 2013, the same Cozmanoff would plead guilty in a high-profile fatal hit-and-run case. Lake County Corrections Officer Britney Meux died and three fellow officers were injured March 6, 2012, when the vehicle Cozmanoff was driving struck the officers and fled the scene.
Cozmanoff was sentenced to 12 years in prison after a jury convicted him on 13 counts, including reckless homicide and failing to stop after an accident.
Warrants served Friday
The slap on the wrist Cozmanoff received during that 2010 traffic stop appears even more troubling now when the public learned Indiana State Police raided the LOFS security force’s guard shack Friday.
The Friday raid was part of a probe into reports of drunken driving and other traffic offenses that weren’t reported to state or local authorities, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.
Indiana State Police officials have declined to comment beyond a statement issued Friday afternoon, but a source confirmed that in some cases, motorists driving on the private roads of the gated subdivision were reportedly pulled over by LOFS security, detained and even assessed fines ranging into the hundreds of dollars, payable to the homeowners' association.
The warrants were being served as part of an investigation into controlled substances, impersonation of public servants, criminal confinement and other potential criminal offenses related to traffic stops, according to the statement.
In a number of cases, security guards allowed alleged drunken drivers to find other means of transportation home after being pulled over, with no proper reporting to police, the source said.
Questions remain regarding whether the security guards had the proper police authority to make any kind of traffic stop or detain suspects at all, the source said.
Messages left Monday with LOFS Community Manager Rick Cleveland and LOFS Security Director Craig Philp at their respective offices were not returned.
LOFS’s safety department had its emergency vehicle designation recently revoked by the Indiana Department of Transportation because it was found to be improperly using red and blue lights normally designated for official police use.
The Indiana attorney general's office contacted ISP about LOFS security's use of improper lights, Indiana State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas said. The state police in turn contacted INDOT, prompting an investigation, Wojas said.
INDOT spokesman Adam Parkhouse confirmed Monday that INDOT’s emergency vehicle designation does not grant law enforcement powers.
"Whether LOFS has statutory authority to serve in that capacity is a completely separate issue and one I’m unable to comment on," he said.
'We pay their salaries'
LOFS officials were quick to issue a statement on social media after the security force had its emergency vehicle designation stripped last month, saying they were “stunned” by the move and wanted to be transparent about what transpired.
"The (Property Owners Association) Board wanted all residents to be aware of this, and they wanted to show their transparency in this situation, as rumors have been started on social media," an Oct. 24 post read.
Transparency from the security force is what LOFS residents like Dave Bocanegra, 55, want to see after Friday's state police raid.
“I think they should have a comment, even more so now, as this directly affects us as residents. I know people say this type of thing all the time, that, ‘We pay their salaries,’ but (through HOA fees), we literally pay their salaries,” said Bocanegra, a LOFS resident since 2002.
But Chris Ann Ross, 37, of LOFS, told The Times she supports LOFS security.
Ross said she worked for LOFS security from 1999 to 2007 as a dispatcher, and in her experience, Lake and Porter County police rarely assisted on calls over the years, leaving LOFS security with their hands tied.
“If county doesn’t come out, and if (LOFS) doesn’t have authority to enforce the law, then who’s going to come in here and enforce laws? That’s a free-for-all, and I’m sorry but that’s not right,” Ross said. "What’s confusing to me is why it’s all of the sudden an issue now."
Porter County sheriff's spokeswoman Jamie Erow said the department does respond to the LOFS gated community for criminal calls for service, disturbances, 911 calls, alarms and more. She declined to comment further on the allegations because of the ongoing investigation by ISP. She said Porter County is not assisting state police in the investigation.
Lake County Sheriff Department is meeting Wednesday* with the Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter to discuss police patrols of Lakes of the Four Seasons going forward.
*This story has been updated.