Dash Cam Video: Sweetwater cop charged for using stolen plates to avoid tolls

The Sweetwater Police Department can’t stay out of the news lately. Scandal after scandal has brought national attention to this small town’s PD.  In April, a Sweetwater Police Officer was arrested for buying crack cocaine from a local drug dealer during an undercover operation.  Also in April, private investigator Jorge Del Rio said a police lieutenant stalked and tried to intimidate him. Del Rio filed an injunction with the Courts, seeking to prevent any member of the police department of stalking him. Sweetwater Police confirmed that Police Lieutenant Marcos Villanueva who was on duty at the time, was parked in front of Del Rio’s house, though Del Rio does not live in Sweetwater’s jurisdiction.

It’s only July and the same police department is making headlines again. This time, it’s due to the release of police dash cam footage showing Sweetwater Detective Octavio Oliu being stopped after running a toll booth using stolen license plates. Oliu, 42, is facing felony charges of official misconduct and organized scheme to defraud. His lawyer, C. Michael Cornerly, said the officer will fight the allegations.

The disgraced Sweetwater police detective used a stolen license plate to shirk hundreds of highway tolls for months until he was pulled over for speeding on Florida’s Turnpike, authorities said.

The trooper ran a computer check of the SUV’s Michigan license plate and found that it had been reported stolen.

Oliu “acted surprised.” He flashed his Sweetwater police badge and said “he had obtained the tag from the tow yard that morning and had run it with negative results.” An FHP dashboard video camera showed Oliu getting out of his car and rummaging through a stack of license plates in his SUV’s trunk. Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Miami-Dade public corruption investigators soon launched an investigation.

They discovered that the tag had belonged to a man named Oscar Marquez, who was arrested in August 2012 at a Best Buy parking lot on suspicion of possessing stolen credit cards. Within weeks, prosecutors dropped the case. That day, Sweetwater police towed the truck. Marquez’s aunt got the truck back from the yard — but it was missing the license plate. She repeatedly called Sweetwater police and was told “the tag would not be returned,” FDLE agent Octavio Agüero wrote in his warrant. Stymied, the woman called police in Michigan to report the tag stolen. Meanwhile, agents believe, Oliu was racking up over 500 SunPass toll violations and even red-light camera citations.

“The use of impounded-confiscated tags is not condoned or authorized by the city of Sweetwater Police Department,” according to the warrant.

It is easy to see that police corruption is something that is ingrained in every fiber of this police department and town. Former Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño is serving federal prison time for corruption, and another former detective, William Garcia, is doing nine years behind bars for identity theft and credit card fraud. Of course, I may need to be on the look out for reporting this story. Oliu was named in a 2013 federal lawsuit filed by a special-needs teacher who he arrested after making a critical remark about Sweetwater police on Facebook.

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