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Police officer charged with robbery

Posted on May 20, 2010 3:00 AM EST

Every now and again a police officer commits a crime which sheds light on what some law enforcement officers are capable of doing. This story of police misconduct boggles the mind. As a Miami criminal lawyer, it is cases like these that makes a client's version of events all the more credible. During consultations regarding criminal cases, clients sometimes give the most unbelievable stories. While sometimes the version of events seem preposterous, it is police officers like John Francisco Villar, that make defending client's rights our firms top priority. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office is going to charge Villar for his involvement in a robbery that took place on the Palmetto Expressway.

On May 18, 2010, the police arrested Officer Villar, his cousin and man who makes his living running an online gambling website. The arrest warrant alleges that Leonardo Lastre owned and operated the website. The victim owed $131,000 from gambling winnings picked up the cash from Lastre. Soon after picking up the winnings, the defendant, along with his cousin, traveling in an unmarked police vehicle stopped the victim on the Palmetto. The defendant was wearing plain clothes, a badge, and a bulletproof vest. Villar's co-defendant was also present wearing a bullet proof vest and a stun gun. The second co-defendant was later identified as Villar's cousin, Fausto Villar.

Villar allegedly pulled the victim over, asked for his driver's license and whether there was any contraband in the vehicle. Villar specifically asked about the contents of the bag containing the money. Fausto took the bag, and John told the victim to wait for a narcotics K-9 to arrive to conduct a cocaine trafficking investigation. The defendants fled the scene in the unmarked police vehicle, only to be pulled over by a highway patrol officer. Prior to being pulled over, Fausto fled the vehicle with the money. The victim was able to identify both defendants. The police officer was from the Northside Department and has been relieved of duty with pay. Lastre was linked to the robbery through telephone records. He even appeared at the scene of the robbery telling the victim that was sorry for what had happened.

The Villar brothers and Lastre were arrested for armed robbery, armed burglary, and conspiracy to commit armed burglary. Fausto was also charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer. All three defendants appeared at their bond hearing. Despite arguments from their criminal lawyers, the bond hearing judge held them without bond. Armed robbery, armed burglary and burglary with an assault and/or battery are offenses that are punishable up to life in prison. As such, defendants are held without a bond, unless the prosecution agrees to a bond or the defendant's appear at an Arthur hearing and the judge sets a bond. Based on the severity of the charges and the media attention focused on the case, the prosecution is unlikely to grant a request for bond. The Villars have no prior criminal record, so the right judge might release them on a high bond and house arrest with a monitor or bracelet.

Despite the fact that Laster was not present at the time of the robbery, he is being charged as a conspirator and principle to the offenses. A principle need not be present when the crime is committed or attempted, but only that the defendant have the conscious intent that the crime be committed and made or promised payment in exchange for committing the offense. It is likely he would receive the most lenient sentence as he was not involved at the scene of the crime.

Miami-Dade Cop Charge in $131,000 Gambling Rip-off, The Miami Herald, May 19, 2010.
Categories: Violent Crimes