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The Double Life of Nick the Cop

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"I was not feeling well," Nicholas explained. "I wasn't understanding correctly at the time. I was very mixed up."

"Why were you mixed up?"
"I'm not feeling well, not feeling good, and I was nervous. I've been not feeling well for quite a while."

During the investigation Nicholas defended his taking Miller to Miami Beach, saying he was there to help nab Gypsy criminals.

"Nicholas told me that out of all this, he has learned a lesson," Connor wrote in his report. "The lesson is that whenever he learns of something within the Gypsy community he will keep it to himself. He believes it is not worth it, if [law enforcement officers] don't trust him."

On November 10, Connor handed down his assessment that the allegation of Nicholas using his power as a deputy to help his Gypsy friends gain sway with Miami Beach police was unfounded. "The allegations lack credible factual information," he wrote. "They are based on perception."

PBSO Assistant Director Richard Virgadamo wrote a memo back to Connor disagreeing with the finding. Connor reevaluated the case and on November 21 found Nicholas guilty of "Misdirected Action or Interfering With a Official Investigations," and gave him a two-day suspension, which Nicholas was allowed to substitute for two vacation days.

Skinner laughed out loud at the punishment.
"Unbelievable," he said. "It's serious what he did. Very serious."
Three days after Connor signed off on that decision, PBSO got a phone call from Lt. Wyatt Walker of the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Walker had some information on the relationship between John Nicholas and John Uwanawich -- and Walker knows a little something about relationships between Gypsies and cops.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office was embarrassed back in 1994 when it became known that undercover agents in Orange and Seminole counties had videotaped Sheriff John McDougall and some of his top officers paying their respects at the Orlando funeral of the Rom Baro of Lee County, one Jimmy Johnson. An ensuing investigation showed that Johnson had died at a party thrown by McDougall's highest-ranking deputy at the time and that the Johnson family had contributed hundreds of dollars to McDougall's campaigns. A state investigation led to the arrest of one of Johnson's sons on several counts of fraud.

Walker told Connor that he'd heard from his own Gypsy sources that Nicholas was associating with a Gypsy named John Uwanawich. Walker didn't add anything new, except one fact: Walker filled Connor in on Uwanawich's record as a convicted felon. Walker isn't shy about his contempt for Nicholas.

"He said he's left that lifestyle and became what they call an 'American,'" he says. "He said he has nothing to do with the Gypsies any longer except to solve Gypsy crimes. Well, I know that he and John Uwanawich are best buddies."

Connor opened another investigation, which he began by confirming Uwanawich's cop-bribing conviction.

On December 11, 1997 -- less than a month after the Dateline show aired -- Connor again questioned Nicholas about Uwawanich. Connor established that Uwanawich and Nicholas were practically lifelong friends. He also brought up the Costa Rica vacation and confirmed that Nicholas was going to Gypsy weddings and funerals, something self-respecting detectives just don't do.

"You're telling me you didn't know John Uwanawich was a convicted felon?" Connor asked.

Nicholas said he didn't.
"Isn't that strange?" Connor asked later.
"No, it is not strange for me, because I have an understanding, as I told you. I know a lot of Gypsies. I know that sometimes through life, they may do something that is construed as illegal. It is my understanding, is, you stay on your side and I'll stay on my side, and we can have a friendly relationship. I don't want to know anything that you are doing because that way, I'm not involved.... I don't inquire, 'Have you committed a crime today? Have you committed a crime in the past? Are you planning a crime?'"

In short, he apparently hears no evil -- when it comes to his friends.
Connor also brought up suspicions that Nicholas was spreading the untruth that Gypsies, when caught in a swindle, are willing to give back to victims as restitution only half of what they stole.

"That's the way it operates, the traditional Gypsy way," Nicholas explained to Connor.

It was a strange statement, considering that in the John Cooke Insurance Fraud Report article, he wrote: "A Gypsy will do anything to avoid jail -- agree to a conviction, pay a fine, pay court costs and restitution (and will always pay in full) and will always repay the victim."

Instances like these have led investigators around the country to wonder about Nicholas.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman