Would-be peace officer arrested

Private investigator linked to Peterson case pulled over drivers, say NY police

February 25, 2005 

A private investigator accused of impersonating an officer in Modesto during the Laci Peterson murder case was arrested on similar charges Wednesday near his home southwest of New York City.

Scott H. Bernstein, 46, used emergency lights and a siren to pull over two drivers in late January and early February, according to media reports from New York. The second person was an off-duty policeman, according to reports.

A Rockland County, N.Y., jail spokesman said Bernstein posted $20,000 bail late Wednesday and was released.

Stanislaus County authorities say Bernstein passed himself off as a peace officer during the high-interest Peterson case to obtain information for TV appearances. Bernstein was charged in August with five felonies and six misdemeanors.

He is expected to appear at a preliminary hearing in Modesto on March 11 — the same day Scott Peterson is scheduled for formal sentencing in Redwood City.

Peterson, 32, killed his pregnant wife just before Christmas 2002 and dumped her body in San Francisco Bay. A jury in December recommended he be put to death.

Sources say his March 11 formal sentencing might be postponed at a hearing this morning in Redwood City.

Mark Smith, an investigator with the Stanislaus County district attorney's office, said Thursday that Town of Ramapo police in New York contacted him after Bernstein was arrested. The agencies will compare notes, Smith said.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or gstapley@modbee.com.

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