Sex offender jailed for impersonating cop -- again

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Deputies in Polk County say they've arrested a sex offender and chronic cop impersonator who tried twice to join their investigation at the scene of a Frostproof traffic crash.

The sheriff's office said they were looking into a vehicle-versus-livestock crash Thursday evening when a Ford Crown Victoria pulled up to the scene and activated a set of red and white emergency lights. 

The man inside offered to help, but deputies declined and he drove away.  Moments later, deputies in Highlands County warned their counterparts that they had been tailing the man, whom they suspected was impersonating police.  So when the man returned to the scene -- with lights flashing -- they arrested him.

Detectives say Thomas Manning Hook flashed a gold "Private Investigator" badge with "chief" engraved on it and also identified himself as a fugitive recovery agent.  They say there were multiple cards in his wallet that identified him as a everything from a private investigator to a member of the clergy to a retired major in the Marine Corps.

The vehicle itself was equipped with emergency lights in the front and back windows, a spotlight, a push bar, and even a prisoner cage with bars over the rear windows.

Deputies say Hook later admitted that he was not any of the things the cards in his wallet indicated and he said he'd never been in the military.Court records and various media reports show Hook has been impersonating officers for at least 23 years. He's been charged with the crime in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office says in Florida, Hook has been charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer in Pinellas and Polk counties.

Hook has several previous arrests in Florida and has even spent time in state prison, deputies said, and he has a history of impersonating law enforcement in several southeastern states.  The 48-year-old has been charged 13 times for impersonating a law enforcement officer. 

Hook is also a registered sexual offender due to a 1992 conviction in South Carolina.

"Thomas Hook is not a law enforcement officer, he is a fraud," Sheriff Grady Judd said.  "Hook is currently in jail where he belongs.  We urge anyone who may have had any interaction with Hook representing himself as a law enforcement officer to contact us."

Hook remains in the Polk County Jail where he will face a judge Saturday morning.