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Ex-officer arrested for two sexual assaults was suspected in a third never prosecuted

Former law enforcement officer Larry Kobielnik stands accused of twice picking up women on Clearwater streets, flashing a badge, handcuffing them and raping them.

More than a decade ago, Tarpon Springs police suspected Kobielnik of a disturbingly similar crime in that city, but the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office refused to file charges, saying the case likely couldn't be won.

Kobielnik was a Tarpon Springs patrol officer from April 2000 to May 2001. Then he went to work for the Transportation Security Administration.

His career there ended Saturday, after he was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a woman he picked up near Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Clearwater, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Kobielnik had offered her a ride about 2:30 a.m. Friday, an arrest affidavit shows. After riding a few blocks, she asked Kobielnik to stop, but he refused and showed her a badge and firearm. He placed her in handcuffs and said she was under arrest, according to the Sheriff's Office.

He drove to a Dunedin house and sexually assaulted her, records show. When he fell asleep, the victim escaped and noted his automobile tag number. He was arrested early Saturday.

On Tuesday, a second woman identified Kobielnik as the man who attacked her in May.

She told authorities that on May 13 about 9 a.m., he picked her up in the area of S Hillcrest Avenue in Clearwater and told her he was an officer who had previously arrested her, arrest affidavits state. He drove the woman to his Dunedin home, where he handcuffed and sexually assaulted her, the affidavits said.

On June 1, the victim went to a local hospital and told deputies she had been raped by an officer who had told her she would be under arrest if she refused.

Kobielnik now faces two counts of sexual battery, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of impersonating an officer.

But in 2002, charges were not filed against Kobielnik after police said he picked up a woman in downtown Tarpon Springs and drove her to the back of a business east of U.S. 19.

"He showed her a badge, told her he was working undercover, forced her to perform sexual acts on him," said Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Ed Miller.

After the assault, Kobielnik drove to a bank, withdrew $10 and tried to give the money to the woman, Miller said. She refused the cash and he dropped her off in downtown Tarpon Springs. She flagged down an officer for help.

The woman later identified Kobielnik, Miller said. Detectives investigated and sent their findings to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.

The Police Department later received a document from prosecutors stating they would not file charges against Kobielnik.

"Based on the totality of the facts and circumstances," the document reads, "successful prosecution is unlikely."

The State Attorney's Office did not disclose Wednesday why charges were not filed.

Kobielnik had been a patrol officer for the Tarpon Springs Police Department before that incident. During his short tenure there, he was the subject of two internal affairs investigations.

One was about his involvement in a car crash.

"The administration thought he might have been untruthful about what happened," Miller said. His one-year probation at the department was extended 90 more days.

In the other IA case, investigators found Kobielnik had mishandled a report. He resigned after that investigation, Miller said.

Kobielnik later landed a job with the Transportation Security Administration. He worked as an officer for the agency, inspecting checked bags at Tampa International Airport. He had limited interaction with travelers, TSA officials said this week.

Kobielnik remained at the Pinellas County jail Wednesday in lieu of more than $1 million bail.

Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157.

Ex-officer arrested for two sexual assaults was suspected in a third never prosecuted 07/31/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:21pm]
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