NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former police sergeant who authorities said led a group of officers who illegally stopped and searched numerous people and vehicles and stole thousands of dollars from them was sentenced Monday to nearly three years in federal prison.

Michael Cheff, 51, an Oakland resident who served on the force in Paterson, was convicted in May of a civil rights violation and filing a false report. Five Paterson officers who have already pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from the long-running corruption probe testified against Cheff, and some said they routinely gave him a portion of the funds they stole.

The officers have said Cheff knew about the thefts that occurred from 2016 to 2018. They said he approved their false reports and helped them log evidence to make it appear they were doing legitimate police work. They also said he ensured complaints against the officers went nowhere.

Cheff, who maintains his innocence, received a 33-month prison term and will also have to serve three years of supervised release once he’s freed. The five other officers were all sentenced last week and received terms ranging from probation to 24 months in prison.