Authorities in Monmouth County say a former special law enforcement officer has been arrested and charged with several financial crimes that targeted local members of the Brazilian-American community.

30-year-old Bruno Lopes-Ferreira is facing second-degree criminal usury, second-degree engaging in the business of criminal usury, and third-degree possession of usurious loan records charges.

Criminal usury is the issuing of loans at illegal interest rates to those unable to obtain a loan through legitimate channels

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office says an investigation led by the Long Branch Police Department revealed that Lopes-Ferreira's alleged criminal activities began while he was employed as a special law enforcement officer with that organization.

Those in that position are police officers who are not fully sworn in, but work when needed in areas like traffic or crowd control.

According to authorities, Lopes-Ferreira operated an illegal money-loaning operation. His victims said they took out loans from him and were charged interest rates typically of 10% monthly, or 120% annually, far exceeding the 30% maximum annual rate allowed under state law.

Lopes-Ferreira also held victims' jewelry, passports, and Motor Vehicle Commission documents as collateral, which he refused to return unless the loans were paid in full, officials said.

He was served the charges against him via summons earlier this week and an initial court appearance is scheduled for December 19th.

Were you a victim?

Anyone with information about Lopes-Ferreira's activities is asked to contact Det. Cunha with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office at (732) 222-1000.

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