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Lopez pleads guilty to posing as cop

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A Martins Ferry woman has pleaded guilty to posing as an undercover police officer.

Marlese A. Lopez, 45, of Woods Lane, entered guilty pleas before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra on Monday to one count of impersonating a police officer and one count of theft of government benefits, felonies of the fourth and fifth degrees, respectively.

Her sentencing hearing was set for Feb. 3. A pre-sentence investigation and Eastern Ohio Correction Center evaluation were ordered. She faces a maximum of two-and-a-half years of incarceration.

Charges against Lopez stem from reports to law enforcement in March from patients of a pain clinic. According to the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department, Lopez followed the individuals from the pain clinic to their homes, claimed to be an undercover law enforcement officer investigating the clinic, and questioned them about their medication. She reportedly asked to inspect the medication and specifically asked if they had any OxyContin. The patients reportedly did not have any medication with them at the time of the encounters.

Belmont County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said the theft charge Lopez pleaded guilty to was the result of a separate welfare fraud investigation. That offense apparently took place from 2013 through 2017. The prosecutor’s office says she will have to repay $14,000 as a result of her plea.

According to the sheriff’s office, while deputies and local police departments do utilize plain clothes officers, these officers always carry proper identification. Anyone approached by someone claiming to be a plain clothes officer should not hesitate to ask for identification, authorities said.

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