Suspect in Desert Sands Motel arson may face more prison time


She took a plea deal on charges tied to a fire that gutted one of Central Avenue’s old motels. Now, the district attorney’s office is trying to put Jennifer Maestas back behind bars for violating her probation. 

Maestas pleaded no contest in early 2017 to an arson charge tied to the May 2016 fire at the Desert Sands Motel on Central near San Mateo.  

The fire injured two people and displaced more than 50 others, along with causing massive damage to the building. By the end of the year, the property was demolished after at least two other fires were started and extinguished at the property. 

After her no contest plea, Maestas was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by five years of supervised probation and three years of unsupervised probation. The Bernalillo County District Court judge overseeing the case, Judge Stan Whitaker, also included eight suspended years in prison as part of the sentence. 

While Maestas was sentenced to two years in prison starting in January 2017, it’s unclear how much time she served behind bars. 

Courts records show in July 2018, probation officers wrote that Maestas tested positive for meth and alcohol. However, weeks after that allegation, Judge Charles Brown signed a document for Judge Stan Whitaker ordering “no action” for the alleged violation. Maestas was ordered to remain on probation. 

In September 2018, Maestas earned a second alleged probation violation. Probation officers accused Maestas of failing to show up for a scheduled meeting. 

In October 2018, Judge Stan Whitaker signed a warrant for Maestas’ arrest.  It wasn’t until seven months after that warrant was put out that Albuquerque police were able to arrest Maestas. 

APD arrested Maestas on May 15, 2019. She now awaits a hearing in front of a judge who will decide if she’ll do more time in the Desert Sands Motel arson case. 

The Bernalillo County DA’s Office told KRQE News 13 Thursday that it hoped to get Maestas’ case in front of a judge in early June. The DA’s Office says it plans to ask a judge to revoke her probation, which could send her back to prison through mid-2022. The judge will have the final decision. 

Since the Desert Sands Motel was demolished in late 2016, the owners haven’t said what they plan to do with the empty lot. 

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