By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A Fort Sumner police officer and his wife have been arrested on charges they conspired to take and trade a vehicle seized by the De Baca County Sheriff’s Department, according to a press release from New Mexico State Police.
Robert Roybal and his wife MaryAnn Sanchez were arraigned Tuesday in De Baca Magistrate Court and released on appearance bonds, the release said.
The arrest came as a result of an investigation into former De Baca County Sheriff Michael Chavez, who was charged with multiple counts of embezzlement in August, according to court records.
Chavez is accused of trading a 1998 Dodge minivan seized during a 2006 traffic stop as payment for repair work performed by Roybal on Chavez’s personal vehicle, court records show.
Roybal told police Chavez gave him the title for the van and Roybal instructed his wife to take it to the Motor Vehicle Division and get a new title for it, according to an arrest warrant.
Roybal, 31, and Sanchez, 34, are accused of signing they purchased the van from the previous owner for $50, obtaining a new title for the van and trading it for another vehicle at a Clovis dealership, the warrant said.
They are charged with unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, conspiracy and receiving or transferring a motor vehicle.
Chavez told police he did not give Roybal the van but left seized vehicles in his care and told him to complete the process of seizure and dispose of the vehicles, the warrant said.
Roybal was working as a sheriff’s deputy under Chavez’s command in the spring of 2006 when the events are alleged to have taken place, records show.
Attempts to reach Roybal and Sanchez on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Fort Sumner Police Chief Wayne Atchley said Roybal has been suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the case.
Atchley said Roybal has been with the department more than six months.
Describing him as a dependable and hard worker, Atchley said he supports Roybal and his wife.
“We do feel like he will be exonerated of these charges,” Atchley said.
Atchley said his department is small and losing Roybal is forcing him to stretch the department’s resources.
“It puts us in a bind. I’m having to readjust some schedules and put in a few more hours myself, especially right here at the holiday season,” he said.