A Trenton police officer allegedly falsified his job application to conceal his connections to a street gang and conspired to help an inmate plan a retaliatory assault and is now facing criminal charges that can result in a 10-year prison sentence.
Rudy Lopez, 36, of Hamilton has been charged with official misconduct, conspiracy and tampering with public records.
According to the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), Lopez — a Trenton police officer since September 2020 — fraudulently denied on his job application that he was associating with gang members, all while regularly communicating with an imprisoned member of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Lopez is currently suspended with pay.
“He is not a criminal,” Jack Furlong said. “He’s a cop. He is not a gang member. He has never been a gang member, and the suggestion he was a gang member would be laughable if not offensive.”
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora responded to the charges by saying, “this administration will not allow violations of the public trust, and that applies equally to law enforcement officers. As for Mr. Lopez, he is currently suspended without pay and will remain so until the adjudication of the charges against him.”
In a separate civil lawsuit, Former Police Chief Sheilah A. Coley alleges that Gusciora and Councilman George Muschal, a former police officer, tried to hold sway over law enforcement and the Trenton Police Department.
Furlong, Lopez’s defense attorney, said his client’s cousin is a Latin Kings member who is currently in state prison but the police officer and his cousin are allowed to stay in touch.
Furlong also claims the Trenton Police Department knew about the family member when Lopez applied to join the department.
“Police officers who betray their oaths erode the public’s trust in law enforcement, undermining the image of the vast majority of upstanding public servants who wear the badge and risk their lives to uphold the law,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “We expect our police officers to be above this kind of behavior, and those who engage in criminal conduct will be held accountable.”
“Instead of serving his community and making it safer, we allege Officer Rudy Lopez was colluding and sharing sensitive information with a convicted felon,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “We will have no tolerance for suspected gang associates infiltrating the ranks of New Jersey’s police agencies.”
“He’s not stupid,” Furlong said. “He knows that every phone call from an inmate in a state prison facility, and a county jail, for that matter, is taped.”
Lopez’s attorney said the police department knew the two stayed in touch when Lopez applied to become an officer.
“The most recent trial was seven years ago,” Furlong said. “The original incident occurred 18 years ago and there’s been no credible threat to anyone. They’re just talking about people they still see in the neighborhood.”
But the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office says the 36-year-old officer has been speaking regularly with the inmate for nearly a year and they’re accused of planning an attack against a possible witness as revenge.
Authorities say that prior to his suspension, Lopez had been in regular contact with a prisoner who is a gang member.
Lopez and the incarcerated individual discussed an assault as retribution against a suspected cooperating witness, who the pair believed had provided information used to put Lopez’s alleged co-conspirator behind bars.
Investigators say Lopez also offered to track down the intended target’s location, and relayed that information to the inmate with whom the officer was allegedly colluding.
The official misconduct and conspiracy charges are both second-degree and carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Tampering with public records is a third-degree crime that could trigger a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorneys General Samuel Rubinstein, Travis Miscia and Jeffrey Conrad of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.
The investigation was conducted by detectives from the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the Special Investigations Division of the NJ Department of Corrections.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.