Former ABQ cop pleads to defrauding city in time card fraud scam
Former Albuquerque police Sgt. James Geha pleaded no contest Thursday to three fourth-degree felony charges that he bilked the city of Albuquerque out of nearly $16,000 in a time card fraud scheme.
As part of the plea deal, Geha agreed to surrender his law enforcement license and to never work again as a police officer. He also agreed to repay the city $15,681, according to the plea deal. In addition, Geha will be placed on a minimum of three years probation.
Geha pleaded no contest to three counts of receiving public money for services not rendered.
State District Court Judge Brett Loveless entered an order of “conditional discharge” in Geha's case, which means Geha won't have a conviction on his record if he successfully completes his probation, said Geha's attorney John D'Amato. Loveless also allowed Geha to carry a firearm for his job.
“The reality is it is exceedingly rare for the courts to impose jail time for a white collar non-violent defendant with no prior criminal history,” said Michael Patrick, spokesman for the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office. “Prosecutors wanted the certainty of a conviction in this case versus leaving the decision in the hands of a jury.”
Geha was indicted on the charges in September 2018.
The New Mexico State Police investigated Geha in 2016 and found that he had 349 hours of overtime in which he didn't work, padding his paychecks by more than $15,000 in one year.
In June 2016, State Police sent their case to then-DA, Kari Brandenburg's office for possible charges. But Brandenburg's office apparently sat on the case. Current DA Raul Torrez took over the office in January 2017.
According to news reports, then-APD Chief Gorden Eden recommended in late 2016 that Geha be fired. But Geha quit before he could be fired.
But in September of 2017, Geha got a job as a fraud investigator with the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. Earlier this month, KRQE-TV reported that Geha had been put on paid leave after the station asked why Geha had gotten the job when he was under investigation for fraud.
Geha has said that he actually worked the hours but that he didn't have the documentation to prove it.