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Socorro city officials indicted on theft charges

Friday, March 15, 2013 - 5:46pm

Socorro City Council Rep. Jesse Gandara Jr. and former Police Chief Refugio Orta were indicted today on felony theft charges. According to court records, Gandara and Orta were charged with state felony theft for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars worth of property.

"It's another sad day for Socorro. It's another black eye for Socorro. When is it going to end?" said Socorro resident, Rene Rodriguez.

"The people of Socorro are tired of seeing their representatives in this situation where they're always in trouble with the law and it has to stop," said Socorro resident, Jesus Ruiz.

Ruiz is running for Mayor of Socorro in May. He says Gandara family politics have broken the people's trust and change is long overdue.

"We are tired of the same recycled politicians running for office and we need a positive change in Socorro," he said.

El Paso County Sheriff's deputies raided Socorro City Hall last July, and a criminal complaint filed with the Sheriff's Office accused Gandara and Orta, among others, of misuse of public funds when they went on a trip to Austin for a conference in June 2011.

But according to Socorro City Spokesperson Dave Garcia, that isn't true.

"In our investigation, the City had an inquiry into the same allegations, found nothing, but that excess funds in this incident were returned. So, we really don't know which funds they're talking about at this point in the indictment," said Garcia.

"He will have his day in court but until then, you have to wonder if it's going to cloud his judgement and the policies he might implement," said Rodriguez.

Jesse Gandara Jr. and Refugio Orta will stand trial for their felony theft charge. According to Garcia, the City of Socorro will pay their legal fees because the case involves their work as city employees.

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