PHILADELPHIA - One former and one active Philadelphia police officer were charged by indictment, unsealed today, with extortion in an alleged loan-sharking scheme. According to the indictment, Gary Cottrell, 46, a former 14th district police officer, made high interest loans to others, including Cheryl L. Stephens, 46, an active 18th district police officer. Cottrell, who was arrested this morning, is charged with four counts of making an extortionate extension of credit, four counts of collecting an extension of credit by extortionate means, and eight counts of obstruction; Stephens is charged with two counts of making false statements to the grand jury. The charges were announced today by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and FBI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge John Brosnan.
The indictment alleges that during the time he worked as a police officer and for a time after he left the Philadelphia Police Department, Cottrell operated a business in which he extended credit to borrowers, typically in amounts ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. He allegedly required each borrower to repay the amount of money he loaned to them plus interest. The interest generally was in an amount equal to $25 for every $100 borrowed and generally had to be repaid in four weeks. The interest rate on these loans was substantially greater than the legally enforceable rate of 25% per annum. The indictment further alleges that some of the individuals borrowing money from Cottrell understood that he would use force, if necessary, to collect the money he loaned them plus the interest, and Cottrell did use force and the threat of force to collect money from borrowers. At times Cottrell allegedly sent threats of force to the borrowers via text messages.
It is further alleged Stephens falsely testified that Cottrell did not charge interest on her loan from him, and did not tell her to deny paying interest when talking to law enforcement officers.
If convicted, Cottrell faces a maximum statutory sentence of 320 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $4 million fine, and a $1,600 special assessment. Stephens faces a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $500,000 fine, and a $200 special assessment.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation/Philadelphia Police Department Public Corruption Task Force and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek and Special Assistant United States Attorney Vicki J. Markovitz.
Click here to view the indictment
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