Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that a 12-year veteran of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office was convicted of official misconduct today by an Essex County jury in a case tried before the Honorable Peter V. Ryan, J.S.C.
Acting Prosecutor Murray said, “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.’’
George Ruiz, 46, of Belleville was convicted of official misconduct for stealing $70 in cash from a crime scene. On March 3, 2011, Ruiz, who was a K-9 officer, was dispatched to a location on Myrtle Avenue in Irvington, where a drug bust had occurred. 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.
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. The case was tried over four days last week and this week. Jury deliberations began 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.
After the jury returned a verdict, Judge Ryan immediately remanded Ruiz, who had been free throughout the trial, to jail. Ruiz is being held in protective custody in another county. In addition to working for the Sheriff’s Department, Ruiz was also employed by the Essex County Department of Corrections for five years prior to joining the Sheriff’s Office.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 3. When he is sentenced, 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.