Police in a small Utah town are being accused of shaking down foreign tourists visiting a national park located there.
Springdale police are alleged to have written citations to the tourists and then required them to pay cash out of pocket but never documenting the fines, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported. An audit released by the state of Utah showed that thousands of dollars in fines were missing, but poor record keeping by police kept them from knowing the true amount.
“The possibility exists that officers could have written citations, collected the citation fines from defendants on the spot … destroyed the citations, and kept the money without anyone ever detecting,” state auditors wrote.
The Springdale mayor’s office claims that the tourists were given the option to pay on the spot, appear before a magistrate or pay by mail, but the audit found differently. A study of the 13 months of citations found that the tourists were forced to pay cash on the spot—and of 423 citations written in that period, 138 were missing from police records.
Though the town of Springdale has only 500 residents, the park draws close to 3 million visitors each year.
The investigation was sparked by a Spanish tourist who was pulled over last year and charged with a traffic violation, the Associated Press reported. Police told the tourist she had to pay on the spot in cash.
The Utah Attorney General’s office said it has not been contacted about the audit and as of yet no charges have been filed against police. The audit said the tourist shakedowns violated a number of state statutes as well as the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.