County K-9 Cop Convicted of $70 Crime Scene Cashgrab
Officer Ruiz faces 3 to 5 years in New Jersey State Prison for theft.
A 12-year veteran of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office was convicted of official misconduct today by an Essex County jury.
According to an announcement by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray, George Ruiz, 46, of Belleville was convicted of official misconduct for stealing $70 in cash from a crime scene.
On March 3, 2011, Ruiz, a K-9 officer, was dispatched to the scene of an Irvington drug bust. Unbeknown to him officers from the Internal Affairs Unit of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office had already entered the apartment and taken an inventory of the cash and contraband, according to Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Shaughnessy, who tried the case.
Ruiz was asked to enter the bedroom with the dog and search for contraband that may have gone unnoticed. Seconds after he left the room, the money was discovered missing. Only law enforcement had entered the room. A subsequent search revealed Ruiz had $70 in cash in his front left pant pocket in the same denominations as previously recorded; two 20 dollar bills and three 10 dollar bills, according to Assistant Prosecutor Shaughnessy.
“It is a real tragedy when a sworn law enforcement officer brazenly violates the law during the routine course of his work. It undermines the public trust and simply will not be tolerated.’’
Following a joint investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, the case was presented to the Grand Jury. Ruiz was indicted in December 2011. According to Murray's office, the case was tried over four days last week and this week with jury deliberations beginning on Tuesday afternoon and ended today.
“It is a major breach of the public trust when an officer steals from a crime scene,’’ Assistant Prosecutor Shaughnessy said in a press release.
After the jury returned a verdict, Judge Ryan immediately remanded Ruiz, who had been free during the trial, to jail. He is being held in protective custody in another county.
In addition to working for the Sheriff’s Department, Ruiz also worked for the Essex County Department of Corrections for five years before joining the Sheriff’s Office.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 3. Ruiz faces 3 to 5 years in New Jersey State Prison. If he is sentenced to the minimum of three years, he must serve two years before becoming eligible for parole.