Jury unable to reach verdict in Medicaid fraud trial against Taos County Sheriff's sergeant

Judge declares mistrial

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After one day of deliberating, a jury in 8th Judicial District Court in Taos told Judge Sarah Backus additional time would not make a difference: they would be unable to reach a verdict on Medicaid fraud and falsification of documents charges filed against a Taos County Sheriff's Sergeant.

Backus declared a mistrial in the case against Sgt. Ricky Romero, who was accused of falsifying 10 timesheets submitted to Options Homecare Inc., a Denver-based caretaking company, between April 2012 and September 2013.

A spokesman for the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General said the office will continue to pursue the case. "White collar crime and Medicaid Fraud is always difficult for a jury to come to a decision on," said David Carl, press secretary for the Attorney General's Office.  "We look forward to continuing to prosecute this case." 

Over the course of three days, a trio of attorneys from the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and private defenders Alan Maestas and Dan Gower argued over a vast quantity of evidence in the case, which alleged Romero had lied about hours worked caring for an elderly neighbor in Peñasco.

Jessica Mascareñas, a special agent of the Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud and Elder Abuse Division, investigated the case and testified during trial.

In 2017, the state filed 21 counts against Romero, including one count of Medicaid fraud, 10 counts of perjury and 10 counts of falsification of documents.

After Maestas filed a motion to throw out the case based on a lack of evidence on Thursday (Aug. 2), Backus dismissed the 10 counts of perjury, but said the 10 counts of falsification of documents and one count of Medicaid fraud would stand as the jury began deliberating early this morning.

When the jury foreperson announced that a decision would not be reached in the case, Romero took his wife's hand and spoke with Maestas about what would happen next.

At this stage, the charges still stand, but how the case will be resolved remains a question.

Exhausted and disappointed, the prosecutors and Mascareñas began packing for their return to Santa Fe, where they will await future court settings, which had not yet been scheduled as of press time Friday evening.

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