Former UTPD, TVA officers plead guilty to extortion after FBI sting

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Two former law enforcement officers pleaded guilty Friday after being accused of transporting money to and from a high stakes poker game in exchange for payment. The game turned out to be an FBI undercover operation.

Robert E. Cummings, 61, and Benito D. Lopez, 62, pleaded guilty to attempting to commit extortion under color of official right. This is when a public official obtains a payment to which he or she is not entitled, believing that the money is being given in return for taking, withholding or influencing official action.

Each faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervision by the U.S. Probation office after being released from prison.

Cummings, a former University of Tennessee police officer, and Lopez, a former TVA police officer, were indicted along with three others earlier this month: Jimmy Douglas, 43, a former Knox County deputy; Samuel T. Hardy Jr., 42, a former Knox County deputy; and David Joyner, 44, a Pigeon Forge Police Department detective.

Douglas, Hardy and Joyner have all entered not guilty pleas and are awaiting trial. Former Knox County deputy Robbie D. Flood previously pleaded guilty in the case.

Sentencing for Cummings and Lopez is scheduled for separate dates in March.

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