A Miami-Dade County cop has been convicted of stealing county gas to fuel his collection of luxury vehicles.
A jury found Emil Van Lugo guilty of filling up two gas canisters each week while refueling his patrol car, the Miami Herald reports.
Van Lugo used the gas to refuel his wife’s BMW between January and March last year, according to WFOR.
Prosecutors argued that he took gas from the county-owned pump, which was far away from his home and the police station where he worked, on 50 occasions. On week days, he refueled his patrol vehicle at a station conveniently located near his home and the police station.
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“Sadly, Sgt. Van Lugo cared more about cheating the county out of a few dollars to fuel his stable of cars than he did about his oath to uphold the law,” said Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade state attorney, according to the Herald.
Officers began secretly video taping Lugo’s movements after receiving a tip. They captured him on video on five separate occasions filling up the cans and then driving home, placing the cans in his garage and emerging some time later to fill up his wife’s car.
“He’s on video on all those days at that fuel site to steal,” prosecutor Terry Livanos said in court.
Lugo’s defense attorneys argued the 16-year veteran only used the gas for his patrol car and kept identical cans in his garage for personal use.
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“He was devastated by the conviction,” David Edelstein told the Herald.
The defense pointed out that putting the lower quality gas into the BMW would have voided its warranty.
They also contended there was never any footage of Lugo refueling his wife’s car immediately after returning from the gas station. There was always a gap of at least a day before he did so.
“There is no evidence that will tell you that Lugo poured the county gasoline into his personal cars,” defense attorney Erick Cruz said, according to WFOR.
But authorities were not convinced.
“This case comes down to common sense,” assistant state attorney Trent Reichling said. “What it shows is this defendant was definitely stealing fuel from Miami Dade County.”
Lugo is free on bail and will be sentenced later this year. The maximum punishment he could face is five years in prison.