Santa Fe County Sheriff steps down amid embezzlement probe

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By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State Police said Wednesday they've spent four months investigating an allegation of embezzlement by former Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano.

State police spokesman Lt. Eric Garcia said investigators learned Solano had been selling county property on eBay. Garcia said the amount of the property has not been tallied.

Solano has resigned, saying he turned himself in to state police for selling discarded protective body vests and other old equipment from the sheriff's department online.

"This was wrong, illegal, unethical and dishonest," Solano said Wednesday in a statement he sent to the media.

Solano said he called state police Monday and told them what he had done. He said he turned over evidence and will cooperate fully.

"I will not burden the taxpayers additional monies by fighting this," he said. "I will accept the consequences for my actions."

State police have been working with the district attorney's office in Santa Fe, Garcia said.

Santa Fe County Manager Katherine Miller said the county would do an audit of equipment.

County commissioners on Wednesday appointed Undersheriff Robert Garcia to succeed Solano. Robert Garcia was elected sheriff in the Nov. 2 election, and is to take office Jan. 1 for that term.

Solano had turned over the running of the department to Garcia.

"He is a good, honest man and if he knew what I was doing he would have reported me himself," Solano said.

He apologized to his family and staff, saying they did not know what he had done until Wednesday.

Solano said he got the idea of selling old equipment after reading articles about families of soldiers buying protective body vests for them.

He said he began selling the department's old vests, which are normally destroyed since they're not recommended for use after five years.

He sold them mostly to military personnel who wanted them for extra protection, Solano said. He said he also sold cell phones left from when the department replaced its phones, as well as flashlights, police belts and holsters.

Solano said he had a hard time paying a high mortgage and other bills in the past few years, but added: "This is not an excuse. What I did was wrong and cannot be justified."

He said while his home is "threatened with foreclosure" and he now is unemployed, he plans to pay back what he took.