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Henry officer charged in gas-theft case

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A Henry County Police officer has been fired, for allegedly stealing gasoline from the county.

Victor Manuel Vargas, 46, of Conyers, is charged with two counts each of theft by taking and violating the oath of a public officer.

"The charges stem from two incidents where Vargas pumped county gas into a friend's personally owned vehicle," Henry Police Capt. Jason Bolton said. "Both incidents occurred while Vargas was on duty."

Vargas was released from the Henry County Jail Tuesday, on $1,050 bond, prior to his first court appearance on the charges Wednesday. Vargas, represented by the Public Defender's Office, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the case, and Magistrate Judge Robert Godwin bound the charges over to Henry County Superior Court.

Vargas was terminated Monday, Bolton said.

A March 23 report completed by police Detective Thomas Stott states that Vargas was seen getting the gas from county gas pumps at a department substation on East Fairview Road in Stockbridge. Bolton said several police detectives work out of the Fairview precinct, and that the building doubles as a fire station.

Vargas was arrested Tuesday by the Henry County Sheriff's Office, and taken to the Henry County Jail. An arrest warrant in the case alleges that he took gas on two occasions, between Jan. 15 and March 7, at the substation. Vargas is suspected of taking a total of approximately 25 gallons of gas, valued at approximately $60, from the substation.

"I'm very disappointed that an officer, who is supposed to be setting an example in the community, has been caught violating the very laws that he had sworn to uphold," Interim Police Chief Keith Nichols said. "Violations of the law, by officers, will not be tolerated, and will be dealt with swiftly."

Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis also responded to the allegations against Vargas.

"Police officers are held to a higher standard of conduct and greater accountability..." she said. "Our police department will respond appropriately any time a crime is committed, even if it involves one of their own."

Vargas was employed with the police department for three years and nine months. He worked in the agency's Community Oriented Police Services Unit last year, according to Bolton, but had been assigned to the Uniform Patrol Division before his termination.

Vargas declined to comment on the charges against him.