By Jessica Holly
MEDLEY, Florida (WSVN) — A South Florida woman was arrested after she was caught driving a vehicle resembling a Florida Highway Patrol unit along the Palmetto Expressway in Medley, and she gave troopers a strange reason why she chose the colors of the law enforcement agency, authorities said.
According to authorities, FHP troopers conducted a traffic stop on a Dodge Charger at around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“A Charger that basically looked like a patrol car, but it wasn’t one of our vehicles,” said FHP Trooper Joe Sanchez.
The stop occurred along the northbound lanes of State Road 826 near Northwest 74th Street.
“This is a state trooper that made the traffic stop, and once he saw that, he said, ‘Hey, there’s something wrong here,’” said Sanchez.
Sanchez pointed at a picture of the Charger that the woman was driving to point out the similarities with an FHP vehicle.
“Look at out vehicle back here and look at this vehicle,” he said. “It had blue lights, it had a siren. The colors are the same as ours, and then it’s got ‘FSO Guard,’ but clearly, if you’re being stopped by that vehicle, you’re going to think it’s a patrol car.”
Investigators said the vehicle was impounded, and the driver, identified as Iulia Pugachev, 28, was arrested.
Authorities informed Pugachev that vehicles in Florida cannot have the same color scheme as FHP’s marked patrol units, black and tan.
Pugachev, according to officials, told troopers that she had purchased the vehicle in this condition from a car auction, unaware that FHP vehicles are repainted before being auctioned.
Dmitry Pugachev, the owner of the dealership that provided the license plate to Mrs. Pugachev, was also questioned.
Officials said the vehicle was last registered in Louisiana, but it had no current license plate registered in any state.
According to the arrest report, Pugachev said that she and her husband had bought the vehicle with physical damage and intended to use it for their security company, FSO Guard.
Pugachev said, according to the arrest report, the vehicle was repaired and outfitted with the blue and white light bar system by a mechanic in Hollywood. She also said that the vehicle’s black and tan wrap was inspired by FHP’s color scheme.
FSO Guard posted several pictures of the same vehicle on its Instagram account back in September.
The arrest report states Pugachev told investigators she “requested the wrap business next to the body shop to wrap the vehicle in black and tan because she had previously seen FHP’s marked patrol units and fell in love with the color scheme.”
Mrs. Pugachev was charged with fraud, operating a motor vehicle with no registration, imitation of an FHP-marked unit, and misuse of a dealer license plate. She was not booked and was granted a promise to appear in court.
According to FHP, it is a first-degree misdemeanor for a vehicle to be painted with the same color scheme prescribed for FHP vehicles.
Troopers said they want to make sure the vehicle that the suspect was driving wasn’t used to commit a crime. They are asking anyone who may have encountered this vehicle in a traffic stop to report it.
Sanchez said he has a message for drivers who find themselves being pulled over by someone behind the wheel of a suspicious looking vehicle.
“Call 911 and say, Look, I don’t think that’s a patrol car,’ and that agency will send a marked unit to make that traffic stop,” he said.
7News has reached out to FSO Guard. As of Wednesday night, there has been no response.
Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.