Suspended Police Sergeant Speaks Out After Alleged Gas Theft

A suspended South Florida police supervisor spoke out and claimed his innocence after prosecutors widely released video allegedly showing him stealing county fuel.

He said a picture in this case is completely deceiving and not worth a thousand words.

Sgt. Emil Van Lugo said if detectives and investigators at the State Attorney's office would have done some simple police work, they would have discovered he didn't steal anything at all.

The sergeant was suspended without pay when he was arrested in May and charged with theft and felony organized fraud.

Prosecutors and investigators within the police department said he was on video putting county gas in his own vehicle.

But Tuesday at his home, Van Lugo said the very same fuel and vehicle that could send him to jail are still there. No one ever came to take custody of it or to test his vehicle to see if he really did steal the fuel.

Sgt. Van Lugo exclusively told NBC 6 those who arrested him forgot the basics when it came to police work.  

He said he is seen in the video, shown across South Florida in May, filling up red gas containers at a county fuel facility and then putting the fuel in his Miami-Dade police cruiser. He's also seen with a red container putting fuel in his family's black high-performance BMW. 

But the avid car enthusiast said the low grade county gas never went in his personal car.

"I would never put that kind of gasoline in my personal vehicle," Van Lugo said.

Van Lugo and his attorney David Edelstein said those who arrested and are prosecuting him would know that if they came to his garage as they requested. Van Lugo showed NBC 6 red canisters, he said are filled with county gas. And in another part of the garage, more red canisters, which he said contain his high octane personal fuel.

To prevent any confusion between the canisters, Van Lugo said he uses a blanket to separate the county gas from his personal canisters.

Van Lugo said when he is seen on video fueling the BMW, he's using his own gas from his own containers, ones that look identical to the containers holding the county's fuel.

Police said the sergeant had been to the fuel depot 55 times over the last 18 months and surveillance teams followed him for about 90 days earlier this year. His attorney said their entire prosecution is based on video that doesn't remotely tell the whole truth.

"He's still has the county gas sitting in his garage unused because he has nothing to put it in because they took away his police car. They didn't seize his wife's car. They could have tested the gas in the car," said Attorney Edelstein.

As to why the suspended sergeant used this container system in the first place: "We always have to have our vehicles fueled in our standard operations and procedures no less than half a tank. I like to go ahead and have a full tank of gas because you never know what scenes you might be involved in."

Van Lugo said he also rarely uses the high performance personal vehicles he owns and needs fuel on hand for them.

They also disputed the mileage figures being used in the prosecution.

NBC 6 reached out to the State Attorney and MDPD about this and the prosecutor is limited with what they can say because this is an ongoing case, but they made it clear they believe they have the evidence to convict Van Lugo and the video speaks for itself.

A trial date has been set for Sept. 8.

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