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Exemplary officer accused of threatening ex-girlfriend

A Tampa police officer once commended for his investigative techniques has been suspended, with his supervisors accusing him of turning those skills against an ex-girlfriend.

Juan Melo, 47, a six-year veteran with the Tampa Police Department and a member of the DUI unit, was accused of using department recording equipment to secretly tape two conversations with his ex-girlfriend, according to Tampa police.

The ex-girlfriend, Ana Cintron, owed Melo about $8,000 that he loaned her during their four-year relationship, police said.

During one of the conversations, Cintron admitted stealing a pair of earrings from Wal-Mart, where she worked, police said.

Melo threatened to give her bosses a copy of the tape if she did not repay him all the money she owed, police said.

Cintron complained to police, who investigated. Police consulted the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office, which issued a warrant charging Melo with felony interception of oral communications and extortion by threat, police said.

Melo turned himself in Wednesday at the county jail, where he was released after posting $5,000 bail. Melo has been suspended with pay pending a disciplinary hearing.

His personnel file shows only a few minor problems, including missing two traffic court hearings after receiving a subpoena, and backing his police car into another vehicle. But it is also marked with letters of praise from the community as well as supervisors for his service. He received good-to-high marks on his evaluations, particularly for his thorough investigations and knowledge of traffic enforcement.

He was also one of the squad leaders in DUI arrests since he was assigned to the unit in March 2002.

In one commending letter from the state's attorney's office, praising him for making traffic court hearings even after working the overnight shift, he was called "a shining example of what is right with the Tampa Police Department."

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