Sheriff Randy Smith has announced that the 2019 Deputy of the Year is Detective Zachary Bruno.
Detective Bruno was hired by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office as a deputy in the Corrections Division in November 2010. Detective Bruno obtained the rank of Corporal in July 2012. He transferred to the Criminal Patrol Division, where was assigned to District 2 for the next three years. During his time in patrol, Detective Bruno was an active field training officer. In December 2016, Detective Bruno become an investigator and was transferred to the Property Division within the Criminal Investigations Division. After two years of investigating property crimes, Detective Bruno transferred to the Financial Crimes Unit.
During 2019, Detective Bruno was assigned 99 cases and had a solve rate of 51 percent. Detective Bruno investigates systematic thefts, embezzlements, scams, contractor thefts and elderly financial abuse cases.
Last year, he spearheaded an investigation into a major auto theft ring operation. The investigation is still ongoing, but has already resulted in more than 30 arrests. The initial investigation started in October 2018 when Detective Bruno was asked to assist the Criminal Patrol Division with a simple vehicle search warrant. During the search, he collected evidence concerning an identity theft case.
At this point, Detective Bruno could have simply concluded the case, which had already resulted in two arrests, but he took the next step of looking into the motive of these individuals and was able to tie this case to a second case he was working. In March 2019 he received a major break in the case when a vehicle that was purchased using the stolen identification was recovered in Maryland. Detective Bruno identified several suspects in the New Orleans metropolitan area and initiated a joint investigation with Homeland Security Investigations and Louisiana State Police.
Through months of research, investigators learned those participating in the scam had developed a detailed scheme which included merging juvenile victims’ personal social security numbers with adult victims’ identities, creating fake credit histories and operating an online financial services site. Vehicles were then fraudulently purchased to be sold overseas.
Detective Bruno helped to identify the masterminds behind the operation, and investigators ultimately discovered that more than 70 luxury-type vehicles had been illegally purchased for a theft in excess of 1 million dollars. The multi-agency investigation remains ongoing and additional arrests may be forthcoming.
“If it wasn’t for the expressed interest and desire by Detective Bruno, this operation would have certainly not been identified. His professional, passion and desire exemplifies what the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office is all about,” Sheriff Randy Smith said. “Please join me in congratulating him and thanking him for his service to the citizens of St. Tammany Parish.”
Detective Bruno graduated from Brother Martin High School and attended Louisiana State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He and his wife currently reside in Mandeville and are certified foster parents.