ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) - Federal agents raided the Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Office Wednesday, and now a local man says he was offered a deal by the sheriff to dismiss his charges.
Neither the FBI nor Sheriff Tommy Rodella was commenting Thursday.
But still KRQE News 13 is learning more about an allegation Rodella offered to make criminal charges go away in exchange for charitable donations.
An Española man told News 13 a deputy arrested him earlier this year for misdemeanor charges.
When he got to the sheriffs office, he claims Rodella himself approached the man to tell him about the Rio Arriba Sheriff's Office Scholarship Fund. If he donated $500, the charges would be dismissed, the man alleged.
The man said he made the donation, and two weeks later charges were dropped.
County Manager Tomas Campos said the sheriff approached him several months ago about donating public money to the fund but was turned down.
"We had talked about it," Campos told News 13. "We donate to a fund at a college, which is an endowment. Because it's an endowment, that's the only legal way to give public funds for a scholarship."
While Rodella wasn't talking to the news media Thursday, his office released documents saying the Public Regulation Commission approved the scholarship fund as a nonprofit corporation in December 2011.
The sheriff's office also provided a form offered to suspects titled "Request for Dismissal" with boxes allowing suspects to offer donations to a variety of groups including the "Rio Arriba Sheriff's Office Scholarship Fund.
News 13 also has a letter that shows the sheriff's office did try to communicate with the courts about this.
It outlines a state law that says the court can order a defendant to make a payment to a local Crime Stoppers, domestic-violence prevention or treatment program as a condition of an order to suspend a sentence. But those contributions can't be more than $100.
It also says, however, a prosecutor can dismiss a case "for no reason or any reason." Officials say in traffic citation cases, the deputies issuing the citation act as the prosecutors.
The sheriff's office said the scholarship fund also is registered with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.
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