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(credit: Getty Images)

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HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston Independent School District police officer has been charged with extortion in an alleged vehicle towing scheme.

Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Richard Cano of Katy made his initial court appearance Wednesday. A judge in Houston set bond at $50,000 for Cano, who was arrested Tuesday.

A criminal complaint says Cano stopped drivers on public streets and had their vehicles towed without further law enforcement action. Cano allegedly split the transport fee with a tow truck driver.

Further details were not immediately available on an attorney for Cano, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Cano has been with the HISD police force for 18 years, mostly recently as a patrol officer. HISD police Chief Jimmy Dotson says the district cooperated in the investigation.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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