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Indiana cop charged with bribery, theft in salvage car inspection scheme

Lake County Sheriff's Department Facebook photo

A Lake County, Indiana, sheriff’s deputy has been arrested on bribery and theft charges for allegedly falsifying vehicle inspection reports.

Deputy Louis Vasquez, 38, is charged with one felony count each of bribery, official misconduct, theft and perjury, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Superior Court of Lake County.

Vasquez, a 14-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, is accused of illegally accepting cash in exchange for completing at least 42 salvage vehicle inspection forms for Fast Import Cars LLC of Knox, Indiana, Indiana State Police said in a statement.

Louis Vasquez | Lake County sheriff’s department
Louis Vasquez | Lake County sheriff’s department

Salvage auto inspections can only be performed by detectives with the sheriff’s Auto Theft Unit, according to court documents. The person requesting the inspection must pay the county a $60 fee and show the receipt to a qualified detective before the inspection is performed.

Vasquez, who is not qualified to perform the inspections, charged the business $20 for each vehicle check, according to court records. The 42 forms signed by Vasquez were completed between Sept. 25, 2017, and Nov. 24, 2018.

“I fully support the work being done every day by our county police officers and the members of our local law enforcement community – but – if an officer crosses the line, fails to abide by the law and their oath to protect and serve, they must be held accountable – as nobody, including police officers, are above the law,” Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said in a statement.

Vasquez turned himself in to the sheriff’s department on Tuesday, state police said. He posted bond and was released by Wednesday morning.

Disciplinary charges against Vasquez were filed this January, seeking his termination in connection with the investigation, the sheriff’s department said in a statement. He has been placed on administrative leave pending a hearing before the Lake County Sheriff’s Merit Board this summer.

The owners of Fast Import Cars, Pavel Rohatinovici and Andrii Lakymenko, were also arrested and charged with one felony count each of perjury, state police said.