Ex-undersheriff gets 30 days, hefty fines

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SAN LUIS — Former Costilla County Undersheriff Andrew Espinoza will spend 30 days in the jail where he once worked.

He will also perform 100 hours of useful community service and serve three years of probation on wildlife charges dating back to 2014. He was sentenced Jan. 26.

The jail sentence also includes work release.

It took a 12-person district court jury an estimated 12 hours Dec. 8, 2017 to find Espinoza, 41, guilty of nine felonies and not guilty of three misdemeanors following a four-day trial on wildlife charges.

The jury found Espinoza guilty of felony illegal sale or purchase of wildlife, big game, illegal or endangered species. He was found not guilty of criminal attempt to tamper with physical evidence, first-degree official misconduct and wildlife - communicating with electronics.

Chief 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift levied the sentence and assessed costs including $5,000 in fish and game fines, an $1,800 probation supervision fee and a $3,330 assessment to the victim’s assistance fund.

As a convicted felon, Espinoza will not have a right to possess firearms and was ordered to relinquish them within 10 days after the jury verdict.

Espinoza was Costilla County undersheriff when he committed offenses while working on his own as a hunting guide and outfitter.

He was arrested and charged in December 2016 for offenses dating back to Nov. 4, 2014. Part of the complaint is that he helped his clients hunt on land where they were not permitted.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) investigators began looking into Espinoza in 2014 after stopping a vehicle near La Junta that was carrying several hunters from West Virginia, the warrant says.

In their truck, authorities found four sets of mule deer antlers and several bags of meat but discovered proper regulations had not been followed.

According to the warrant, the hunters told officers they had been hunting in San Luis with a man named “Andy Espinoza” of A&A Outfitters, who was also the undersheriff of Costilla County.

Colorado wildlife officials eventually began working with Indiana Department of Natural Resources detectives in May 2016 on an undercover operation targeting Espinoza.

An Indiana detective contacted Espinoza, who allegedly said he charged $4,500 per person for an all-inclusive guided hunt whether it was for deer or elk.

When the undercover officers arrived in Colorado for the hunt in November, Espinoza admitted that the deer license he had instructed them to buy was effectively invalid.

The warrant says Espinoza told them, “the game warden knew what vehicles (Espinoza) drove and that the game warden would leave them alone.”

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