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Clearwater police commander under investigation is connected to other complaints

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater police commander under criminal investigation for using a police database to help a woman going through a messy divorce was the subject of similar complaints involving a different married couple two years ago, according to interviews and law enforcement records reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times.

Lt. Richard Crean, a 21-year veteran officer who heads a patrol district, was accused of involvement in the questionable arrest of Palm Harbor resident Christopher Castor in 2010. Crean, 45, later admitted to his superiors that he dated Castor's wife, Alina Maur, who was 24 at the time.

Crean also was questioned by a Pasco County sheriff's deputy in early 2011 about whether he was involved in a drive-by shooting Castor reported, according to Pasco Sheriff's Office records. That case was never solved.

Last month, Clearwater police referred an investigation of Crean's alleged misuse of a police database to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, which is deciding whether to file a felony computer-crimes charge against him. If convicted, he could spend up to five years in prison.

The investigation stems from accusations that he ran a car's license plate number through a state law enforcement database and gave personal information about the car's owner to Laura McLynas, 44, of Palm Harbor. The car was parked outside the home of Laura's estranged husband, James, who has also complained that Crean was behind his arrest on a child-custody interference charge that was later dropped.

Castor, 39, said he had given up on his complaints about Crean until he was recently contacted by a reporter. He said he was troubled to learn that Crean is being investigated after being accused of apparently wading into the affairs of another squabbling couple.

"Rick (Crean) preys upon women in distress," Castor said. "There's got to be other instances of it that are just never reported."

Crean was placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 30, according to the Clearwater Police Department. The Times ran a story about the criminal investigation of his conduct, and related accusations, on Nov. 29. Crean could not be reached for comment. Maur did not return calls.

The issues involving Crean, Maur and Castor started in August 2010, when Castor was arrested on a felony charge of falsely imprisoning his wife.

Maur told Clearwater police investigators her husband had forced her to leave Lagerhaus in Palm Harbor, where she was eating with a friend. According to a police report, "Maur tried to get away but Castor forced her into his vehicle and left the area." The restaurant was outside Clearwater's jurisdiction, but officers said Castor "drove around the city of Clearwater recklessly refusing to let Maur out of the vehicle."

However, she did not report the incident until the day after it had allegedly happened. And a surveillance video from the restaurant, which Castor obtained for his defense and shared with the Times, tells a different story.

In the video, it appears that Castor confronts Maur inside the restaurant, then walks outside alone. She follows him and gets in his car. Prosecutors who examined the case after Castor's arrest decided not to pursue charges.

About six weeks later, Castor tried to get Clearwater police to arrest his wife for filing a false police report about the incident, records show. They declined. He mentioned his concerns about Crean, then a sergeant.

According to an email from Clearwater police Lt. David Dalton to the department's Internal Affairs Division, Crean was "attached to the incident in which Castor was arrested" as a "related officer," although police reports about the arrest do not mention his involvement.

Crean said "he has dated Maur a few times, but they are not sexually involved," Dalton wrote on Oct. 10, 2010. He said he was passing on the information so that internal investigators would be "aware" of it if Castor complained directly to them. A full internal investigation was never conducted.

Crean's description to his own bosses of his relationship with Maur did not match what he later gave to Pasco County sheriff's Deputy Lee Harrington.

On Feb. 16, 2011, Castor told the Pasco Sheriff's Office he had been shot at by an unseen assailant in a silver SUV on an isolated stretch of Trinity Boulevard, just north of the Pinellas County line.

Castor said he had been having problems with his wife, who he believed was dating Crean.

On Feb. 26, 2011, Harrington conducted a telephone interview with Crean, who said "he is Alina's friend but is not dating her," according to Harrington's investigative report. Crean said he was home asleep at the time of the incident.

Harrington recounted the following exchange from the interview in his report:

"When I asked (Crean) if he drove a silver SUV, he said he did not. I told him that I pulled up his . . . record and he has a silver Chevrolet utility vehicle registered to him."

The report continues, "He said that is his ex-wife's car and he has not had it taken out of his name. He said Christopher is constantly following Alina around and makes up incidents to report to law enforcement."

By early March, Castor had reported no further suspicious incidents. The case was dropped.

Asked about the 2011 shooting investigation, Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said in a statement, "This the first time we have seen or been made aware of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office report. . . . We are looking into it further."

Watts said Clearwater internal affairs cannot re-examine Castor's 2010 accusations against Crean under the provisions of the Florida Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights.

The divorce case between Castor and Maur is still pending in Pinellas-Pasco family court. Each has sought restraining orders against the other, and Maur was once arrested for violating a restraining order, according to county and state records. Prosecutors chose not to charge her.

In 1993, when he was 20, Castor pleaded guilty to submitting false information on a driver's license application, a felony. In 1999, he pleaded guilty to grand theft, also a felony, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

Crean has enjoyed a largely successful career at the Clearwater Police Department. In 2011, he won a Public Safety and Service Award from the Rotary Club of Clearwater. This year, he was promoted by police Chief Tony Holloway.

In December 2010, however, Crean was referred to the department's early intervention program for domestic violence, after his wife, Christie Ann Crean of Tarpon Springs, sought a restraining order against him.

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

Clearwater police commander under investigation is connected to other complaints 12/10/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 10, 2012 10:58pm]

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