Deputy arrested in drug-planting probe

A former Jackson County deputy accused of planting drugs on motorists was arrested Wednesday, after being charged with racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment.

Zachary Wester, 26, was arrested on the felony charges in Crawfordville, following an investigation that began last August, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Wednesday.

State investigators found that Wester “routinely pulled over citizens for alleged minor traffic infractions, planted drugs inside their vehicles and arrested them on fabricated drug charges,” according to a press release issued by FDLE.

Wester “circumvented” the Jackson County sheriff’s body camera policy “and tailored  his recordings to conceal his activity,” the release stated.

“There is no question that Wester’s crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail,” FDLE Pensacola Assistant Special Agent in Charge Chris Williams said in the release. “I am proud of the hard work and dedication shown by our agents and analysts on this case to ensure justice is served.”

The state agency investigation came at the request of Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts.

“I would like to thank the citizens of Jackson County for their patience during the investigation and my staff for continuing to serve our citizens during this difficult time,” Robert said in the state release.

Wester, who also charged with misdemeanor perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, was fired last year.

Prosecutors have dropped more than 100 cases that relied upon arrests and testimony by Wester, who spent two years working for the Jackson County law enforcement agency.