Sandoval plea bars him from office

John Sandoval

CONEJOS — Conejos County Commissioner John Sandoval entered a plea agreement Thursday, March 28, to state charges stemming from a Statewide Grand Jury indictment on three tax complaints and one count of theft over $5,000, all class 5 felonies.

As part of the agreement, he will resign his position as county commissioner and will never again hold elected or appointed office in Colorado.

As provided by the Colorado Constitution, no person convicted of perjury shall be eligible to the general assembly or capable of holding any office of trust or profit in the state.

Appearing before District Judge A. Bruce Jones, Sandoval, 53, faced charges stemming from actions as early as 2012 and agreed to plead guilty to a class 1 misdemeanor charge of second-degree perjury in exchange for dismissal of all four felonies.

Sentencing was set at 8:30 a.m. May 9 and Sandoval is expected to have completed set terms of his plea agreement. He paid $20,000 Thursday and will be assessed up to $23,000 in taxes, penalties and fees, to be paid by the sentencing date.

Sandoval has been a member of the Conejos Board of County Commissioners for more than 18 years and the charges relate to a period between June 7, 2012 and Oct. 15, 2016. He was indicted by a statewide grand jury June 1, 2018 and advised June 14 for the offenses of evasion of state taxes, a class 5 felony, failure to collect for or pay over any tax, a class 5 felony, one count of filing a false tax return, a class 5 felony and theft between $5,000 and $20,000, also a class 5 felony. He posted $5,000 surety bond.

Appearing March 28 for disposition hearing, he pleaded guilty to class 1 misdemeanor second-degree perjury.

Evidence was developed by the grand jury alleging Sandoval earned additional income in the State of Colorado during the 2012-2015 tax years that was not accounted for and/or declared when his state income tax returns were prepared and filed under the penalties of perjury with the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR). He also allegedly failed to collect, account for or pay over any tax authorized by state statute.

According to the indictment, the sources of Sandoval’s additional, undeclared income included, but was not limited to, various checks that he received from hay baling work or hay sales he conducted and from a restaurant in Antonito that he owned and operated and, as owner, was required to collect and remit state and local sales to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Sandoval no longer owns the business.

Further evidence reported by the grand jury alleged Sandoval did not fully collect, account for and/or remit the proper sales tax from his restaurant, based on the record of transactions that was obtained by the Grand Jury, permitting a comparison of the actual sales that occurred at his business versus what was reported.

For example, investigators identified a bank account for the business owned and operated by Sandoval that showed bank deposits greater than the amounts listed as gross sales on the reported sales tax returns.

Count three alleged Sandoval filed a false tax return and count four alleged felony theft.

The indictment states, in the end, a reasonable inference could be drawn that sales tax funds, in excess of $5,000 but less than $20,000, from the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 tax years, were supposed to be held in trust by Sandoval and payable to both the State of Colorado and the town of Antonito were taken and converted by Sandoval instead of being remitted to the designated recipients.

Sandoval originally offered to write a check for $20,000 in exchange for dismissal to the state and claims revenue agents refused. On March 28, that amount was accepted and more money was requested.