Florida sergeant demoted following hidden camera investigation

In August, a woman reported finding a hidden camera in the air conditioning vent in her bedroom.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office demoted a sergeant after investigators said he mishandled evidence at a video voyeurism crime scene.

In August, a woman reported finding a hidden camera in the air conditioning vent in her bedroom.

10 Investigators got hold of an internal memo dated Dec. 5 saying Sergeant Eugene Paniccia took a photo of the camera in the air conditioning unit before potentially contaminating evidence by touching it without gloves.

The memo says he put the evidence on the woman’s bed and then left with no one to keep an eye on it.

The sheriff’s office says the woman’s roommate, who was suspected of putting the camera in her vent, was able to walk in unnoticed and take the camera.

The report also states that Paniccia’s body camera was in sleep mode for most of her shift.

The sheriff’s office demoted him from sergeant to deputy.

Our requests to interview the Sheriff and now Deputy Paniccia have been denied.

Throughout the year, 10 investigators reported on the growing problem of hidden cameras record unsuspecting people during their most private moments.

Emily Ashman knows what it’s like to have her privacy invaded.

“There were 18 videos of me. And then, like, screenshots and snapshots,” Ashman told us in February. “I was completely naked.”

Ashman was recorded by his teacher Mark Ackett at Bloomingdale’s Senior High, a Hillsborough County public school in Valrico.

Footage from the state’s attorney’s office shows Ackett’s cameras hidden in cardboard boxes with holes cut out.

One staff member and 125 students were registered.

Ackett was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“Now it’s something I think about everywhere I go. So it can happen. And it will happen in a circumstance where you least expect it,” Ashman said.

In 2017, vacationers found hidden cameras disguised as smoke detectors in a Longboat Key condo they had rented on Airbnb.

10 Investigates also uncovered several hidden cameras found in bathrooms, including in a Clearwater gym, a Pinellas Park office building, and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.

On Valentine’s Day in 2021, a customer at a Lakeland Circle K found an iPhone in an envelope hidden under the sink while in the restroom.

So how do you spot a hidden camera?

We placed six hidden cameras in a kitchen and asked Matt Aubin to walk us through how to find them without any special equipment.

“As I walk in, I see this hook over there – which, in fact, is very commonly used to hold cameras,” Aubin said, immediately finding a disguised camera inside a white plastic hook. on a door.

“Another thing I often look for is unused electronics,” he said as he found another hidden camera plugged into a nearby outlet. “This standard AC/DC adapter has a camera lens here. It really doesn’t matter being here without a cord or something connected to it.

Next, Aubin focused on a camera disguised as a digital clock.

“I also noticed that we basically have two clock radios here. This one seems to have a camera right here in the middle,” he said. “It’s been five clocks in this kitchen. You already have three built-in. Unless you’re just super obsessed with time for some reason, you don’t need that much. So it raises suspicion to go after those.

The second digital clock was also a hidden camera.

The same was true of the adapter to which the second clock was plugged.

“Right in the middle, if you look and see [the lens] above that,” Aubin said.

Then he turned to a camera disguised as a smoke detector, similar to one found in a Longboat Key condo rental in 2017.

“There seems to be a camera lens inside,” Aubin said as he pulled it out of the wall. “When you open it, it doesn’t contain the typical components of a smoke detector. When you look at it, there are actually slots for SD cards and other memories. Well, you usually won’t need a USB-C charger or an SD card in a normal smoke detector… Most people have changed the batteries in smoke detectors before, so you know what you’re doing. look if you look inside, like to know if anything looks a little weird… All the smoke detectors I’ve seen have a test button on them. This one don’t… And it’s not a well-known brand.

Aubin recommends unplugging and removing anything you are unsure of.

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