The Northeast Philly man whose traffic stop video made him a viral sensation is fending off claims that he is a fraudster -- and the local police union is calling for his prosecution.
Tony Soto, 28, posted video of himself calmly and eloquently defending himself to a police officer who pulled him over because the tinted windows.
To those who view the public’s interaction with police as being filled with constant harassment, the video -- which has been viewed more than 1.2 million times through World Star Hip Hop and other sites -- presented a small victory.
But police warn that Soto’s conduct off camera has raised concerns.
“Please be aware of any interactions with Tony Soto,” reads a warning of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police website. “This individual is intent on baiting police officers and attempting to embarrass our members on video, which he then turns over to media outlets. This male also identifies himself as a Fire Official from Montgomery County and may flash a badge. This is untrue and Soto is a fraud.”
According to federal court documents, Soto was convicted of purchasing guns to resell them to drug dealers in 2006. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of probation. He was arrested twice while on probation -- the first time for going to a 17-year-old coworker’s house with a gun after she spurned his sexual advances, according to court documents. That case was dismissed because there was equal evidence that Soto was innocent.
In 2011, while still on probation, he was arrested for flashing a fake police badge during a traffic stop. Police had pulled him over because the car he was driving in had a lights and sirens package. One officer, a Philadelphia police sergeant, let him go. But he was arrested minutes later by another police officer who wasn’t fooled. He was arrested, but that case was also dismissed after a judge ruled Soto received no benefit from flashing the badge.
During the video in the traffic stop Soto also flashes a badge, which he calls "my fire marshal's badge," and shows to the camera, during the encounter. Soto refused to show this badge to Metro or confirm its authenticity or origin.
That’s the same reason Soto is unlikely to face charges for flashing the volunteer firefighter’s badge, says Cameron Kline, a spokesman for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
When contacted Monday, Soto referred questions to his attorney who did not return calls for comment. In video posted to his Facebook page, Soto says that conduct that landed him in jail is in the past.
“I was there. That’s what God delivered me from,” Soto says on his Facebook. “The video speaks for itself and it addresses and shows an ongoing issue of some police officers abusing their police powers and trying to violate individuals constitutional rights.”
A Philadelphia Police Department Spokesman says the officers in the video did nothing wrong.
“If this guy is so bold as to flash a badge at a police officer,” said police spokesman Lt. John Stanford “what’s to say he isn’t doing that to get into some old lady’s house.”