A former Las Vegas police officer is accused of double-dipping while working for the city and taking gas for personal purposes.
Shawn Montoya, 37, 25 Flagstone Road in Las Vegas, was charged April 13 with one count of fraud and 19 counts of forgery in connection with his work for the city.
The alleged criminal activity occurred from October 2007 to March 2008. Montoya resigned quietly from the local police department in late March 2008. State police said that Montoya took nearly $1,100 in value from the city.
Montoya has held other jobs since; last fall, he was hired as Springer’s police chief. But in March, he had to accept a demotion to code enforcement and animal control officer after the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy board suspended his officer certification for six months based on the investigation into his alleged improper use of a gas card at the city of Las Vegas.
Springer Mayor Johnny Chavez said he could have assigned Montoya to be administrative chief, meaning he wouldn’t drive a patrol car or wear a badge. But Springer is too small not to have a chief who is working the streets, the mayor said. So he offered the part-time position of code enforcement and animal control officer.
Springer’s town council is expected to review the position every month.
“There’s nothing guaranteed,” he said. “Some are making it look like we’re keeping a bad cop. That’s not our intention. We’re all human beings here; we all make mistakes. Swawn Montoya is innocent until proven guilty.”
Chavez said the city hired Montoya, a Springer native, knowing that he was under investigation. But he said officials were waiting for the hearing at the Law Enforcement Academy.
Montoya, whose salary has dropped by a third, said he expected the matter to be resolved soon and that he would then issue a statement to the public.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Las Vegas’ Magistrate Court, state police reviewed the gas receipts from the Shell service station on Grand Avenue. Montoya’s police car had a fuel tank capacity of 19 gallons, but 16 transactions with Montoya’s gas card from October 2007 to February 2008 involved purchases of 21 to 24 gallons of fuel, the complaint states.
During the investigation, an allegation surfaced that Montoya had claimed to be on duty for the Police Department and Wal-Mart at the same time. From January to March 2008, state police identified four dates in which Montoya’s shifts overlapped.
For instance, on March 1, 2008, Montoya claimed to have worked from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the police and 9:15 a.m. to 3:51 p.m. for the store, including a 30-minute break, according to the criminal complaint.
Montoya was a high-profile officer in the Police Department, serving as the grant writer. He made headlines when he defended the department’s push for resource offices in local schools in 2007. He also publicly advocated for tougher DWI laws.
During the recent Law Enforcement Academy board meeting, 40 officers were up for disciplinary action, Mayor Chavez said. Some cases were similar to Montoya’s, but those officers weren’t suspended for as long, he said.
“Officers should be held to a higher standard. If you’re going to uphold the law, you need to follow the law,” the mayor said.