2 Lauderhill cops arrested for receiving sexual favors

Officers Franklin Hartley, Thomas Merenda charged with unlawful compensation, battery

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Two Lauderhill police officers were arrested for receiving sexual favors from two women following a traffic stop, according to the Broward State Attorney's Office.

Officers Franklin Hartley, 33, and Thomas Merenda, 34, were charged with unlawful compensation and battery after an early-morning incident on May 24, 2012, that started when Hartley stopped a car with two women outside a fast-food restaurant.

According to police, Hartley stopped the two women shortly after they left Vegas Cabaret, a gentleman's club, where the women were drinking. Hartley told the women that he could arrest them and told them to drive to an isolated area behind a strip mall. 

Police say the women followed Hartley to the location, and Merenda met the group behind the strip mall.

According to the police report, Hartley and the passenger had sex. Afterward, Merenda told the driver of the vehicle to strike him in the genitals.

"Prior to being allowed to leave, Officer Merenda asked victim to punch him in the 'nuts,' meaning the genital area," stated the arrest affidavit. "He reassured her that this was okay and this turned him on. Officer Hartley told victim that 'Tom really enjoys this.' Victim stated she subsequently punched him in the groin as requested."

Before releasing the victims, the officers groped the two women, police say.

Hartley is charged with two counts of unlawful compensation, a second-degree felony, and one count of battery, a first-degree misdemeanor. Merenda is charged with one count of unlawful compensation and one count of battery. 

Lauderhill Police Chief Andrew Smalling issued a statement Friday, saying: "I and the men and women of the Lauderhill Police department are truly disappointed with the nature of the allegations made against these two officers and if they are proven to be true, the consequences should be severe. The alleged actions of these two officers are in no way any reflection of the character and integrity of the many hard working men and women of the Lauderhill Police Department."

Both Hartley and Merenda are on administrated leave, Smalling said.

Eric Schwartzreich, Merenda's attorney, called the allegations outlandish.

"My client is not just not guilty, he is innocent," he said. "The case is just plain nuts."

"I'm looking forward to a complete and thorough investigation," said Anthony Livoti, Hartley's attorney. "Officer Hartley is looking forward to challenging this and being found not guilty by a jury of his peers."