Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Guy Who Allegedly Impersonated a Cop to Beat Traffic

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
June 21 2013 11:51 AM

Dumb Criminal of the Week: The Guy Who Allegedly Impersonated a Cop to Beat Traffic

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

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Alleged crime: Impersonating a police officer

Fatal mistake: Unconvincingly impersonating a police officer

The circumstances: Cops get a lot of perks. They’re always invited to ride in parades. They get free food and drink at certain civic-minded restaurants. And they can flip their sirens on whenever they want to speed through traffic. Of course, to get these perks, they actually have to be cops, with all the danger and bureaucratic hassles the job entails. All that free stuff doesn’t come for free.

A Florida man named Luis Mario Vega allegedly wanted to get the perks without putting in the work. According to the Sun Sentinel, Vega put a flashing blue light in his car and flipped it on whenever he got tired of sitting in traffic. The scheme worked fine until the fateful day when a fellow commuter noticed that Vega looked nothing like a cop, and his flashy silver Pontiac looked nothing like the sort of car a cop would drive. The woman followed Vega and took a picture of his license plate. According to the Sun Sentinel, here’s what happened next:

Vega then reportedly exited his car and approached the woman, who reportedly told Vega that it was unlawful to impersonate a cop.
Vega laughed and said “good luck with that,” then added a derogatory term, the [Sheriff’s Office press] release stated.

That would’ve been a great kiss-off line if Vega was actually a cop. But he wasn’t, and the woman called the real cops to report that a rude jackass in a silver Pontiac was pretending to be one. When the real cops arrested Vega, he allegedly told them that “he'd switch on the lights to get around people because they had thought he was ‘a police officer.’ Vega also told the deputy, ‘You can get around so much faster when stupid people are moving out of your way.’ ” It takes stupid to know stupid, I guess.

How he could have been a lot smarter: If you want to get around quickly while everyone else is sitting in traffic, don’t impersonate a police officer. Buy a motorcycle.

How he could have been a little smarter: Vega bailed on his impersonation way too soon. He should have tried to make that lady believe he actually was a cop, maybe by flashing a fake badge and insisting that he was “in pursuit” of a “perp” or something. Nine out of 10 frauds fail because the fraudster fails to commit to the bit.

How he could have been a little dumber: He could’ve impersonated a meter maid.

How he could have been a lot dumber: “So you don’t like fake cops, eh? All right, lady, I’m taking you in!”

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): Vega exemplifies a classic Dumb Criminal of the Week personality type: the guy who thinks his scheme is smart when it’s actually really, really stupid. Impersonating a cop is the sort of thing you might get away with for a short time. But the ruse will always fall apart sooner or later, usually when your fake authority is challenged by some nosy lady on the freeway. If you really want to beat traffic, just leave your damn house earlier. 4 out of 10 for this guy.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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