Court documents: Man charged with impersonating cop also posed as fireman, judge
Authorities seized police badge, handcuffs, and key to police vehicle from suspect’s home
BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Court documents indicate Eric Cinotti has a long history of pretending to be things he’s not. Cinotti, already facing charges for impersonating a Navassa Police Officer at an emergency medical call over the summer, was indicted on additional felony charges this week. They stem from new evidence authorities uncovered after first becoming suspicious of Cinotti when he responded to that medical call in the neighboring jurisdiction of Leland.
These charges are related to incidents that occurred in Leland and Brunswick County in July and are in addition to the charges Cinotti was originally faced following his initial arrest on July 23. In that incident, the indictment says Cinotti was driving a Navassa Police Dodge Durango with blue lights on, had a gun holstered on his hip, and was wearing a Navassa Police Department Polo shirt, a Police Detective’s badge, and a bullet proof vest with the word police on the front.
Cinotti’s latest charges include six counts of felony impersonating a law enforcement officer, one count of operating a vehicle with a blue light, and one count of reckless driving to endanger.
Sources familiar with the case tell WECT that after Leland Police first encountered Cinotti at that emergency medical call, authorities obtained dash camera video from inside the Navassa Police SUV Cinotti was driving, and learned he’d been making other traffic stops under the guise of a police officer.
Court documents indicate that on July 20, for example, Cinotti stopped someone in a silver pickup truck, which pulled over after Cinotti activated his blue lights. Further, the indictment states that the same day, Cinotti drove 107 miles per hour on Interstate 40 while operating a blue light under the guise of official police business.
Cinotti posted a $50,000 bond to get out of jail while he awaits trial. But a Motion to Modify Conditions of Pretrial Release filed with his court paperwork notes a request that Cinotti be monitored by a GPS tracking device. It notes “the defendant left the jurisdiction and assumed a different identity” after his arrest in July, and has “approached government officials purporting to be an officer of the United States Military. In addition to the current charges, the defendant has posed as a fireman, a military officer, an attorney, and a federal judge.”
A search warrant executed on Cinotti’s Leland home after his July 23 arrest detail the emergency call from July 21 that first raised authorities suspicions about Cinotti.
“The male identified himself as ‘Eric’ and stated he was ‘new with Navassa’ and was ‘trying to get to know everyone.... The [Leland Police] Sergeant was suspicious of his conduct and the answers to his questions, and spoke with the interim chief of Navassa Police, Stephen Conrad, who advised the Sergeant that he was unsure if the male was sworn in with the police department,” the search warrant reads.
The warrant also mentions a previous fraud investigation that put Cinotti on law enforcement’s radar, where “Cinotti allegedly approached the victim at the VA Hospital in Wilmington and identified himself as a Colonel. Cinotti was allegedly attempting to create a militia-style humanitarian aid agency and attempted recruiting the victim. The victim allowed Cinotti to make a purchase of military uniforms on an online retail website... using the victim’s financial transaction card. The victim never received the items or a refund of his money upon request.”
The search warrant details a Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office report filed on 10/15/2020 regarding Cinotti practicing law without being a member of the NC State Bar. Cinotti has a website advertising legal mediation services doing business under the name of The Cinotti Group. It indicates he has a law license and a Masters in Public Administration.
“Impersonation of law enforcement, especially when firearms and police vehicles are involved jeopardizes the safety of the general public,” a Leland Police Detective wrote in his application for a warrant to search Cinotti’s home.
During the execution of the search warrant, authorities seized a bullet proof vest, a Navassa “Detective” badge, a portable police radio, a collapsible ASP baton, a typed letter from Navassa, a key fob for a Dodge vehicle, and metal handcuffs from Cinotti’s home.
WECT tried to clarify Cinotti’s exact relationship with the Navassa Police Department at the time he was charged with impersonating a police officer, and to determine if he was on their payroll or just a volunteer. Town Attorney Norwood Blanchard said Cinotti was never on the payroll. As he understands it, the previous interim police chief allowed Cinotti to volunteer, but doubts he was ever authorized to conduct traffic stops.
No one answered the door when WECT went to the address listed for Cinotti on court paperwork. An American flag with a US Army logo was flying in front of his home, and an SUV with a Disabled Veteran license plate was parked in front of his house. The plate was personalized with Cinotti’s initials, EAC. When WECT called the phone number listed for him on court documents, the man who answered said the reporter had the wrong number. The number listed on the web page for Cinotti’s business as a certified mediator is answered by an automated recording.
Cinotti’s neighbors said they used to see quite a bit of him around the neighborhood, but that he’s been laying low since being criminally charged this summer. They also said he wanted to run for a seat on the board of their Homeowners Association, but was not allowed to because he does not own his home.
Cinotti retained his own attorney, Jordan Duhe Willetts, to represent him on his growing list of criminal charges. Willetts declined to comment for this story.
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