DA accuses Santa Fe officer of fraud in alleged time-card scam; Española cop charged with embezzling

Jason Wagner

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.

Contact Steve Terrell at sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his political blog at http://tinyurl.com/Roundhouseroundup.

(6) comments

Comment deleted.
Chris Mechels

Brenda, it seems we are both interested in reform at SFPD. Lets see if we can help each other at bit. Please contact me via my Facebook account.

Chris M

Comment deleted.
Comment deleted.
Chris Mechels

Mr. Chase, Brenda Young seems to know what she's talking about.

As for you, all you do is scream insults, especially at those interested in police reform.

You seem like an ex cop, part of the ongoing corruption at SFPD, Was Michael Eiskant a buddy of yours? Michael, and others like him, had a long run at SFPD because his co-workers, and the police union, protected him.

Why is that? Why do you protect creeps like Eiskant. Please explain.

Chris Mechels

It seems that citizens of Santa Fe, and New Mexico, aren't aware of the workings of the criminal justice system, until a case like this. Here's a bit of background, based on research done 2 years ago, when I was called for Grand Jury duty.

Using Grand Juries to "indict" criminals in New Mexico is uneven, and unjust. Uneven because most NM counties don't use Grand Juries, they charge suspects before a Judge in a Preliminary Hearing. Unlike GJ, which operate in secret, PH are in open court, AND the defendant's attorney can cross examine witnesses, unlike the GJ, and call witnesses to refute the testimony of witnesses called by prosecutors. Simply put, the defendant has a LOT more "rights", and even Spence Pacheco admits this, but she says she doesn't have the resources for PHs.

As a result most criminal charges in SF go to a GJ, which is dominated by the DA, so she pretty much gets what she wants. Its theater, not justice. For the GJ system to work a lot better, the DA needs to leave, and stop dominating the process. Spence will not leave the GJ alone, and she doesn't care about justice.

Over 1/2 on those charged in NM have a preliminary hearing, with more legal rights. Even Los Alamos county uses PH, not the GJ. Spence has chosen to "inflict" an unjust GJ process on us, for her own purposes.

Chris Mechels

Spence is up to something, but the question is what. It is unlikely to be in our best interest, based upon her past actions.

First problem; Spence and her DA office have a conflict of interest when it comes to charging cops. She acknowledged a conflict of interest, when it suited her, after the Grand Jury found "not justifiable" recently on a Sfe cop shooting. Spence decided that because of "conflict" she could not charge the cops. So, she sent the decision off to a southern NM DA that she knew WOULD NOT charge the cops, thus getting around the decision of the Grand Jury. She should not be involved with the current cases, due to conflict.

Charging the cops in a Preliminary Hearing, as opposed to indicting them, offers the officers MORE rights than the Grand Jury format. I am in favor of charging ALL those accused in Preliminary Hearings, and eliminating the Grand Jury, but Spence will not hear of that. So, why the special treatment for the cops??

Charging them before a Judge is not certain to result in taking the cases to trial, as Spence can make such a weak case that the charges are dismissed. She controls the whole thing, still. Our only choice is to "fire" her, if she gets the charges dismissed by a weak prosecution.

The real problem; Spence has a conflict of interest, and should recuse.

jim mathis

Pacheco is a joke! what happened to the more than $300,000 embezzled rom the city parking division? Pacheco swept this under the rug so as not to embarrass Romero and Coss!

Andrew Lucero

The sad truth is that Wagner has nothing to worry about, even if he did it...Spence is such a sorry excuse for a DA that her office will undoubtedly blow the case and he will be found not guilty...Then he will turn around and sue the city for a nice big pay day....

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