Miami-Dade County

Police officer charged with stealing county gas

An insignia from the uniform of the Miami-Dade Police Department
An insignia from the uniform of the Miami-Dade Police Department

A Miami-Dade police sergeant making six figures is facing charges he stole county gas to fill up his wife’s BMW.

Emil Van Lugo, 45, was on his 16th year on the force when investigators said he routinely made weekend gas runs while off-duty, filling up fuel cans for free at a county station and then heading home to his garage. Police said they watched him fill up his wife’s black BMW with the spare cans, then load the empty canisters back into his squad car for a repeat trip to the government station, according to charging documents.

“It is a shame that a veteran police officer would go out of his way to steal from Miami-Dade County just to save a few dollars on gasoline,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement Monday announcing the arrest. “A police officer who would sell his good name and his integrity just to put gas into his wife’s car tarnishes the reputation of every good officer on the force.”

Van Lugo’s lawyer, André Rouviere, declined to comment, saying it was too early for him to discuss the case. He said his client would not be available for an interview.

Van Lugo has been a sergeant since 2007. County payroll records show he earned about $130,000 last year. Van Lugo is facing five counts of petty theft, a misdemeanor, and one count of organized fraud, a third-degree felony. A police spokesman said the sergeant was suspended with pay pending the official processing of the criminal charges, when Van Lugo’s status would switch to suspended without pay.

In charging documents, the police department’s compliance squad described a three-month investigation of Van Lugo that revealed a string of curious fuel stops. When working a shift, Van Lugo almost always refueled his squad car at one of the county gas stations frequented by police officers.

But on Van Lugo’s days off, according to charging documents, he liked to make the eight-mile drive from his house to Fuel Site No. 17 — a depot at 7900 SW 107th Ave. mostly used by drivers for the county’s Solid Waste Department.

There, he was filmed exiting the squad car in a T-shirt, shorts and sandals, and then taking two red gas cans out of the back seat. He’d fill them up, return them to the car, and then drive off, investigators said. They put his house under surveillance, and saw him take fuel cans out of his squad car and fill up the BMW’s tank.

Since early 2014, Van Lugo made 55 stops at the No. 17 station, according to the documents. Investigators based their charges on surveillance footage available for six weeks in 2015, which allegedly showed him filling up the spare fuel cans. He was charged with stealing $277 worth of gasoline.