Local judge weighs in on alleged RASO scandal

Posted at: 04/18/2013 7:07 PM
Updated at: 04/18/2013 7:15 PM
By: Gadi Schwartz and Shaun Griswold, KOB 4 On Your Side

For several weeks the KOB Eyewitness News 4 On Your Side team has been investigating allegations that the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputies may be letting suspects out of traffic tickets for $500 dollar contributions to a mysterious scholarship fund.

When Magistrate Court Judge Alex Naranjo said he was suspicious when he heard about it.

“I was very alarmed, I was very alarmed,” he said.

Here's how 4OYS is told the scam worked: Someone is pulled over, cited and then given the opportunity to donate to a scholarship fund in exchange for deputies dropping the charges.

But the fund is not associated with the county or the courts. And sources tell 4OYS federal agents have seized copies of the checks that have been paid to the scholarship fund.

Naranjo says it looks very suspicious

“If somebody is being cited for driving with a revoked license,” he said. “It's not up to the officer to dismiss that if he gets money for whatever funding might be.”

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department says what they are doing is perfectly legal as long as the person who gets a ticket asks to give to the scholarship fund. He claims the deputies are not allowed to ask for donations.

“None of the deputies ask ‘hey would you like to take another option?’ If they do that they would be subject to discipline in this office,” department spokesperson Jake Arnold said.