Former Wilmington cop pleads guilty in botched prostitution sting; officer who agreed to help him still on duty

Tags: , , , ,

Submitted: Thu, 11/07/2013 - 4:27am
Updated: Thu, 11/07/2013 - 2:01pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A former Wilmington police officer has pleaded guilty in connection to a botched prostitution sting last year.

Andy Lazzaro admitted to misdemeanor willful failure to discharge duties this afternoon.

He admitted getting drunk during the sting in March 2012, but did not admit to prosecution claims he engaged in inappropriate behavior with women who came to an RV staged as a bachelor party.

District Attorney Ben David says there were two video recording devices hidden in the RV. He said on was in the front, and the other was in the back. David said Lazzaro had to be driven home by another officer, Sam Thompson. David said Lazzaro had the recorder from the front of the RV in his pocket, and audio from it revealed he asked Thompson to help him edit video from the other recorder and that Thompson agreed. David said there was no evidence Thompson ever did this and that there is no evidence of any criminal action. That recording device later went missing and has never been found. Thompson has since been transferred to patrol, according to WPD Deputy Chief Mitch Cunningham.

“There weren’t any felonies that we could establish beyond a reasonable doubt,” David said. “You’ve asked about the missing key fob. If we could prove where that is, that would be a felony. That would be obstruction of evidence if we could prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. And believe me: We looked.”

Prosecutors say they cannot prove what happened to the camera. They also say they believe $1,500 unaccounted for from $2,400 in special funds used in the sting was likely an issue of poor accounting by officers involved, which led to two supervisors, Joe Fitzgerald and Will Richards, being disciplined. Fitzgerald later quit.

Deputy Police Chief Mitch Cunningham, speaking on behalf of WPD because Chief Ralph Evangelous was out because of a previously scheduled medical procedure, says the department has taken corrective measures to make sure something like this does not happen again. He says the key now is to maintain the public confidence.

“Our officers brought this incident to our attention; officers within our agency. And then from that investigation it moved over to the SBI, and then they did their investigation, and we’ve gotten to the bottom of it,” Cunningham said.

But we pointed out that it took months for officers to come forward, and in February Evangelous said the “code of silence” among law enforcement needed to stop.

“Well, certain officers came forward,” Cunningham said. “We did our investigation, and because of that investigation we transferred people, officers resigned, so it’s been a difficult time for our agency. But I think the public trust is maintained when they see how this process worked and its ultimate result.”

Judge Russell Davis sentenced Lazzaro to 45 days suspended sentence, 12 months unsupervised probation, court costs, a $100 fine and 24 hours community service. He cannot be a law enforcement officer during his probation. Lazzaro has also agreed to give up his law enforcement certification.


  • Guest Timekeeper says:

    In other words, the cops stole the money and spent it on hookers and booze.

  • Guest Reply Redux says:

    Your tax dollars were spent on hookers and booze!
    PS: Did the officers & hookers report their income to the IRS? If not…there’s another story for the tabloids. Everything is taxed! Federal Tax/State & Local Tax/Social Security Tax/Hooker Tax/etc……
    Land to Goshin!!!

  • Guest123123 says:

    The number of corrupt, dishonest and just down right law breakers continues to rise. The truth is that a huge majority of emt’s and firemen are good people who actually want to help people. The same can not be said for law enforcement in this area.Even the LEO’s who do not break the law are arrogant folks who would have a hard time getting a job in other fields of work.

  • Justin says:

    That makes no sense whatsoever. EMT’s and firemen help those in a completely different manner, they aren’t put in the dangerous situations that LEO’s are everyday, no shootings, chases, arrests, nothing. The whole story isn’t told here, so therefor don’t act like you witnessed it and know every detail. Yes, there are some LEO’s that aren’t completely honest or keep the integrity that they are thought to have, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t LEO’s here that would stop a bullet for you. Because in the end, people like you complain about LEO’s and when something is to happen god forbid you’ll be the ones blaming them for not helping you how you wished. And I guarantee they hold a higher paying job than you currently do and are able to do more with their degree anyways.

  • guest234234 says:

    The Truth is we are extremely lucky to have the Brave Women and Men that Put themselves in Harms way for both you Idiots. Do you think you have the courage to run into Danger instead of from it. Of course you don’t. Every Profession including yours ( that is if you have one)has a few rotten apples. The Pay scale that these Brave Men and Women is insane and we are blessed to have them to protect you two Morons.

  • tke1 says:

    How many law enforcement officers do you ACTUALLY know well enough to support your statement? Just because you would do these things if you were an officer doesn’t mean every other officer would do them.

  • Deputy Dog says:

    Free money, free prostitutes, and free beer? Where do I sign up to be a cop?

  • Guest123123 says:

    I an so tired of explaining to non law enforcement people how this all works. First if you do not understand the dangers in fire service you are just a pure fool. I would rather go into Creekwood armed than into a burning building. Have you ever arrived at a crime scene in a position of authority. I doubt it. EMT’ are sometimes first on the scene with no weapons to protect themselves and expose themselves to all type of bodily fluids to help people they dont even know.I personally do not need their help. My training will suffice to protect my family and I. I am retired state officer and now run two businesses. Good luck comparing their income to mine. I do think the Chief makes more than me though.

  • Guest2020 says:

    Thank you for your service as a firefighter. I have been through a house fire and a car fire and very much appreciate the firemen who helped.

  • guest456456 says:

    I’ve been a firefighter for 15 years. I think that qualifies me to make the following statements.

    First, yes, my job is dangerous. However, I think our men and women in blue face far greater risk each and every shift than my fellow firefighters and myself do. The overwhelming majority of the calls we run these days are medical calls. Anyone who disputes this is a pure fool. Chances of me dying as a direct result of something happening on a medical call are virtually zero.

    Second, on those rare instances when we actually do have a real fire to respond to, we’re able to see it. Cops are not always able to see who is shooting at them or from where.

    Third, your comment about preferring to go into Creekwood armed is ludicrous. When we are inside a structure with a working fire, we can pull out if conditions are looking ripe for things like backdrafts or building collapses. Police officers CANNOT pull back when there’s an active shooter on the loose.

    Fourth, it’s true that EMS does arrive on scene first sometimes. But if there’s ANY indication that they are in danger, they wait until law officers arrive and secure the scene before EMS is allowed inside. I’m not even sure what your point was regarding EMS and weapons. Medics are not cops, and they simply don’t go in until police tell them a scene is secure. Same holds true for those of us who ride the big red trucks.

    Fifth, yes, anyone who responds to a medical call risks exposure to body fluids. However, we have protective gear that if worn properly reduces our chances of contracting some awful disease to virtually nil. Cops don’t. Yeah, they can wear bullet-proof vests, but they can’t ward off head shots. While trying to secure a scene, they can be run over by cars – including cars driven by people who do things like blow through checkpoints and try to ram them head-on. We don’t go in on such things until LEO has cleared the scene of all hazards to our safety.

  • Guest123123 says:

    I have never called a law enforcement officer for help in my 51 years on this earth and I never will. The current laws pretty much allows me to carry anywhere I go so the only phone call will be to 911 for an ambulance for the intruder or robber. Did the job for 17 years so do not talk to me about running into danger. I worked alone in rural counties late at night with no backup. I have a great profession of running two successful businesses plus a state retirement!!!. Most do the job because they can not get another one!!!

  • guesty says:

    You’re, not Your. Idiot

Leave a Reply