FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Broward Sheriff's Office deputy once arrested in connection with a bar fight is accused of using a fake letter he said was from SunPass to get out of paying toll citations.
Lazaro Mesa, 28, is charged with falsifying public records, officials misconduct, and petit theft.
According to an arrest report, Mesa submitted a fake document that he said was from the Florida Department of Transportation to get two citations against him dismissed in March.
An investigator for FDOT said Mesa's SunPass account was terminated because it had a negative balance. The investigator said Mesa had some toll violations, leading to five citations, three in Miami-Dade County and two in Broward, because of non-payment.
Police said Mesa fought the three citations issued in Miami-Dade in court but was found guilty. He had to pay three fines totaling $497.25.
The arrest report states that Mesa then spoke with a toll enforcement officer and attempted to get her to dismiss the other two citations in Broward County because he was a law enforcement officer. When she didn't, Mesa gave her a copy of a letter that he said was from SunPass.
The toll enforcement officer then dismissed the citations against Mesa after he entered a not guilty plea.
The FDOT investigator said the letter Mesa provided was fraudulent, saying it contained "several fallacious, deceptive, and false statements within its contents." FDOT then notified BSO, asking the department to start an internal affairs investigation.
According to the FDOT investigator, three red flags suggested the letter was fake. It was written in the first-person and signed by a "Shaun Bugbee," who is not a known employee. Furthermore, the letter was dated December 11, 2011, a Sunday. The FDOT does not mail documents on weekends.
The investigator also said that Mesa previously tried to avoid paying tolls by falsifying information in July 2011.
Mesa has been suspended without pay.
Local 10's Christina Vazquez spoke with Mesa over the phone. He told her he is devastated.
Mesa said he loves his job and serving the community and is certain he will be found innocent of the charges.
Mesa's attorney never returned a request for an interview.
Mesa was charged previously in connection with a bar fight in Deerfield Beach in 2006. Mesa was working off-duty at the time and responded to the call about a bar fight in uniform. It ended with a man saying the deputy used excessive force and BSO claiming the deputy's version of events didn't mirror that of eyewitnesses. He was later acquitted of the assault charge.
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