PALM BEACH SHORES, Fla. (CN) - Two women claim in court they were sexually assaulted by a predatory cop who managed to maintain a quarter-century career in South Florida law enforcement despite his "deplorable history of abuse of women."
In a pair of lawsuits filed in Palm Beach County circuit court, the anonymous plaintiffs claim they were the latest in a long line of victims assaulted, harassed and humiliated by veteran police officer Charles Hoeffer.
Before the alleged attacks on the plaintiffs, Hoeffer had kept his job as a policeman in Florida even after being accused of rape and repeat domestic violence in 1990s, including one incident in which he allegedly assaulted his wife, "shattering her nose with a boot," the lawsuits say.
One of the plaintiffs, who is described in the complaint as a legally blind woman, claims Hoeffer ingratiated himself to her in 2013 while working as a police officer for the small town of Palm Beach Shores on Singer Island, an idyllic coastal community lined with luxury homes and beachfront resorts.
In March 2014, she claims, Hoeffer starting making lewd comments when he visited the plaintiff to return an item that she had reported lost. He returned a few hours later and invited himself into her home in uniform, at which point he "pushed his police issued firearm into [her] body, pulled out his penis" and demanded oral sex from her, the lawsuit says.
"The more [the plaintiff] resisted Hoeffer's sexual attempts, the more aggressive he became," the lawsuit alleges. "Hoeffer grabbed [her] by the legs, rubbed her left leg against his department issued firearm, as a show of force and intimidation, and vaginally penetrated [her]."
Roughly a month later, Hoeffer allegedly came to her home and sexually assaulted her again minutes after finding out she had been in a fight with her fiance, she claims.
He was placed on paid leave pending a criminal investigation, which, to date, has not yielded any charges.
The second plaintiff says Hoeffer exploited his position as a Palm Beach Shores police officer to befriend her as well, stopping by her home to visit her dogs and leading her to believe he would help her with her domestic disputes.
In August 2013, Hoeffer allegedly asked the second plaintiff to meet up for coffee to talk about her domestic discord. She got into his vehicle, and he drove her to a deserted location, where he began groping her and trying to kiss her as she struggled to fend him off, the lawsuit says.
In another instance, twenty minutes after the second plaintiff encountered Hoeffer at the Palm Beach Shores station to file a report about her husband, Hoeffer showed up at her home and made more aggressive, unwanted sexual advances, she claims.
Both plaintiffs seek damages for alleged civil rights violations, assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress.
Filed on Feb. 21 and 22, the lawsuits include counts for negligent hiring and supervision against the Town of Palm Beach Shores, claiming the town should have known not to hire Hoeffer given his history of abusing women.
"The Town ignored the writing on the wall in hiring and retaining Hoeffer as a sworn police officer, giving 'this predator a jungle to hunt in,'" the lawsuits allege, quoting a grievance about Hoeffer that was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
According to the lawsuits, Hoeffer's abuse of women was documented as early as 1983, when his wife repeatedly called 911 to report that she was the victim of domestic violence.
The Delray Beach Police department gave Hoeffer his first job as a Florida policeman in the late 1980s, in spite of the domestic violence reports. During his time with the department, he assaulted his second wife, "shattering her nose with a boot," the lawsuits say.
An internal affairs investigation purportedly found that Hoeffer was guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer, and that he had disobeyed orders to cease harassing phone calls to the wife. Hoeffer resigned from the Delray Beach police force but was quickly hired by the Riviera Beach Police Department in 1991, about 20 miles to the north.
While employed by Riviera Beach, he was accused of domestic violence yet again (this time by his third wife). He then dodged criminal charges for allegedly raping a woman at a hotel in 1996, the lawsuits say.
Riviera Beach fired him, but an arbitration panel reinstated him, and he continued working in the city until 2008, when he took a job a few blocks away, across the intracoastal waterway, in Palm Beach Shores.
There, multiple women -- coworkers and residents of the town -- claimed Hoeffer sexually harassed them between 2009 and 2011. One resident allegedly said Hoeffer would harangue her when she was on the way to work or to the beach, telling her, "You're hot," and that he could take care of her with his copious police pensions.
Hoeffer was also investigated in 2011 for filing false police reports, the lawsuits say.
Courthouse News records show that a dispatcher for Palm Beach Shores filed a still-pending sexual harassment claim against the town in 2015, saying Hoeffer created "a sexually hostile work environment" and engaged in offensive conversations, chauvinistic escapades and "frequent groping and fondling of his genitals" in front of female employees.
The Palm Beach Post reported that the Town of Palm Beach Shores fired Hoeffer in Jan. 2016, citing his failure to secure his officer re-certification. He had been on leave for more than a year due to the sexual assault allegations cited in one of the lawsuits filed last week.
Neither his union attorney from the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association nor the Town of Palm Beach Shores has responded to a request for comment.
Records from the Benevolent Association indicate that Hoeffer was a union representative for Palm Beach Shores officers when he worked for the town.
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