Ex-Police Union President Accused of Using Funds to Buy Cruise, NBA Tickets

A former Texas police union president is accused of using funds from the union account to buy cruise and NBA tickets.

Bank statements revealed thousands of dollars in expenses not connected to union activities under Jose Robert Lozano Jr., then-president of the Houston METRO Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 98, according to KHOU. Charges allegedly included $1,600 on Houston Rockets tickets, $1,994 on a Caribbean cruise, $224 on beach bars in Cozumel and Belize, and $769 in movie grill tabs in Houston.

Lozano left the position in 2019 and was replaced by Robert Smith, who found that the union account had a negative balance, Smith told Newsweek. It was $81 in the red, Smith said. He said he was "close to passing out."

"Our past secretary and I were there [ at the bank] together," Smith said, "We were just looking at each other like, 'How could that be?'"

Smith, who was treasurer while Lozano was president, said he wasn't allowed to access the account. The former union secretary, Andre Hines, and Lozano were the only two who had access to the union account, Smith said.

"[Lozano] handed me the checkbook and said, 'Ok, I need you to write checks for things,' and 'do this' and 'do that' but I didn't have access to the account at all," Smith said.

After taking over as president, Smith filed a complaint to the Houston Police Department and Fraternal Order of Police Texas State Lodge, Smith said. The state FOP subsequently launched an investigation, Smith said. The state wrote a letter in November of 2019, saying that Lozano had abused his authority for personal gain, thus violating his oath of office, according to KHOU. The union also wrote that Lozano was unable to account for more than $70,000 in business expenses in 2015.

Lozano allegedly pulled a total of $17,000 from ATMs with a FOP-issued card, charged $27,000 in Walmart money cards, and $200,000 on an American Express card from 2015 to 2019, KHOU reported. The FOP never had an American Express card, Smith said.

Smith said that he believes Hines knew of Lozano's charges. Hines also had made some charges on the union account but nowhere near the amount that Lozano had made, Smith said.

Lozano was also president of a fundraising company, RG Benefit Inc., that solicited donations for FOP programs to assist kids in need, according to KHOU. However, RG Benefits kept three-quarters of the donations, leaving only 25 percent for the general FOP account, a signed agreement shows. Additionally, after Lozano left his position as president, he was still soliciting donations but wasn't giving them to the FOP, Smith said.

Smith said he felt "completely betrayed" by Lozano. Smith was trained by Lozano when he came to the Houston Metro Police Department.

"It was actually very heartbreaking because we were friends at work, away from work," Smith said. " I had no reason to doubt anything he said or did."

Before leaving his union position, Lozano also resigned from the Houston Metro Police as part of a settlement agreement with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, according to court documents. He was investigated by the transit authority due to anonymous complaints about Lozano and "unflattering" recordings of him that resulted in him being demoted from sergeant to police officer.

Lozano had filed a Title VII lawsuit against the authority, claiming racial discrimination and retaliation, court documents show. The racial discrimination claims were dismissed.

Lozano did not immediately respond for a request for comment when attempted to be reached through the Houston Metro Area Police Foundation, a charity he launched. Lozano's attorney, Stephen St. Martin, said his client did nothing wrong, when KHOU reached him for comment. Lozano has not been arrested or charged with with the alleged expenditures.

Update 2/9/22, 6:49 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information and comment from Houston METRO Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 98 President Robert Smith.

Jose Robert Lozano Jr., Personal Expenses, Union
A former Texas police union president is accused of using funds from the union account to buy cruise and NBA tickets. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images