The district attorney this week filed four felony charges of attempted fraud against the public against a Santa Fe police lieutenant who has been investigated on allegations he falsified his time cards.
Lt. Jason Wagner resigned from the department in January 2014 a few weeks after then-police chief Ray Rael confronted him about the accusations and told him it was likely he’d be fired for the alleged time-card scam. But later last year, new Chief Eric Garcia rehired Wagner back and attempted to promote him to the rank of captain — even though Wagner was still being investigated by the district attorney. City Manager Brian Snyder didn’t approve the promotion.
In an unrelated case, prosecutors last week also filed a criminal complaint against Detective Cpl. Solomon Romero of the Española Police Department, charging him with a single count of embezzling more than $250 but less than $500. Romero had been under investigation for trading police department ammunition for T-shirts with the owner of an apparel graphic design company.
Wagner’s lawyer, John Day, said Saturday that Wagner is a dedicated police officer who is the victim of “old-school city politics.”
“Anybody who has been in Santa Fe for more than 48 hours knows that city politics is at play,” Day said. “Jason got on the wrong side of some politicians. We look forward to the chance to clear his name.”
District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco said Saturday that both cases will go to a preliminary hearings. These proceedings are open to the public, unlike grand jury hearings, which are done behind closed doors.
Attempts to reach Romero were unsuccessful Saturday. In December, he denied the allegations against him, telling The New Mexican that the ammo-for-T-shirts accusations were made by a disgruntled ex-employee of the Española Police Department. Last week, Romero, who has been placed on administrative leave, told The New Mexican he was “contemplating” resigning from the department for “personal reasons.”
Wagner left the Santa Fe department in late 2013 after several of his co-workers reported that he was coming to work late or leaving early.
Department investigators secretly placed a GPS tracking device on Wagner’s police car. Rael, in news reports in The New Mexican, said the GPS showed Wagner arriving late, leaving work up to four hours early and taking long lunches. The tracking device also showed Wagner at other locations — including a gym in Rio Rancho — when he was supposed to be at work.
Wagner, in a taped conversation with Rael obtained by The New Mexican last year, denied any wrongdoing, saying he had worked at home transcribing sensitive citizens complaints against other officers. He said he couldn’t do that work in the office. Wagner said he’d later take time off for the hours he had worked at home.
Garcia, after becoming chief last year, hired a private investigator to look into the allegations against Wagner. He later described the false time cards as “hiccups” and said Wagner deserved “progressive discipline,” such as a written or verbal warning, not termination.
Santa Fe Police Lt. Andrea Dobyns said Saturday that Wagner remains on “alternate duty status” — which means he doesn’t have contact with the public. He’s been on that status since August.
“Chief Garcia has given direction to his personnel that the Santa Fe Police Department will continue to work with our peers at the First Judicial District Attorney’s office,” Dobyns said in an email Saturday.
Wagner’s arraignment is scheduled for March 9 before state District Judge Glenn Ellington.
Romero’s arraignment is scheduled for March 6 before state District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer.