MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami-Dade police sergeant on trial for allegedly stealing gasoline has been found guilty on all six counts.
A Miami-Dade criminal court jury began hearing the fraud case against Emil Van Lugo last week.
Lugo is accused of organized fraud for allegedly repeatedly stealing gasoline from a county-owned pump and using it to gas up his wife’s BMW from January through March of last year.
Assistant State Attorney Trent Reichling told jurors that police received a tip in January 2015, that the 16-year veteran was filling gas cans with fuel at a county station miles from his home and far from the Hammocks district station where he gassed up his patrol car during the week.
Reichling said detectives videotaped the sergeant on five occasions, filling gas cans at the county station normally used to gas up waste management vehicles. They then watched him drive home, take the cans out of his car, place them in his garage and later emerge and fill up his wife’s BMW.
After a week-long trial, a prosecutor told jurors the videos don’t lie.
“He’s on video on all those days at that fuel site to steal,” said Assistant State Attorney Terry Livanos.
The state says records show Lugo got gas at the remote station on 50 consecutive weekends, while fueling up his cruiser during the week at the county location.
“This was planned. This was well thought out. This was a police officer methodically covering his tracks,” Livanos said. “He’s out there (at the county fuel site) like clockwork, weekend after weekend after weekend.”
Defense argued that the sergeant always first put the gas cans in his garage, and the state didn’t prove the fuel he later put in his wife’s BMW came from the county pump, that they could have been different gas cans.
Defense attorney David Edelstein argued the gas from the county pump was for the officer’s squad car.
“If he put the gas into the police car, that is not a crime what he did,” Edelstein told jurors.
The state said there is additional, damning circumstantial evidence: neither Lugo nor his wife used their credit cards to purchase gasoline until after he was arrested and suspended last year.
Lugo faces up to five years in prison and the loss of his law enforcement certificate for the organized fraud conviction. The other five counts are misdemeanor theft charges.
Lugo’s wife, Irene Gomez-Lugo, is a long-time Miami-Dade Schools employee, currently an assistant principal, on maternity leave with their newborn child. Both mother and baby have been in the courtroom.