Originally charged with 252 counts of embezzlement and fraud, and facing up to 100 years in prison, Solano entered into a plea bargain to reduce his maximum potential sentence to eight years.
“Solano was elected to protect and serve, not steal and profit,” said special prosecutor Matt Chandler. “In an era where public trust has become the topic of the day, I believe it is time to send a message that gross misconduct by public officials will be strictly punished, and I believe an eight-year prison sentence will send that message.”
Solano, free on $25,000 bail, said financial problems, including back mortgage payments, led him to embezzle from the county. However, there were also allegations that he was gambling at casinos in Nevada and New Mexico. Solano resigned in November 2010 after admitting to his misconduct; he had served as sheriff since 2002.
In September 2011, Solano was sentenced to 120 days in the Santa Fe County jail and four years of probation. He will also have to pay $25,000 in restitution, though he was not required to repay the $64,200 cost of an audit conducted by the county to determine the extent of the fraud. At his sentencing hearing he said, “I was desperate, and I was stupid.”
Solano was released from jail in October 2011 after serving 6 weeks of his three-month sentence, which was reduced for good behavior. He spent his jail time in protective custody.
Sources: Reuters, www.correctionsone.com, Santa Fe New Mexican, www.kob.com
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