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Schools official linked to theft of iguana sculpture

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This surveillance camera footage shows a man walking out of the Buffalo Thunder Casino & Resort Sept. 26 with a bronze iguana sculpture taken from the Resort's Red Sage Bar. The lawyer for Pojoaque Valley School Board Member Jon Paul Romero says Romero admits taking the sculpture.

This surveillance camera footage shows a man walking out of the Buffalo Thunder Casino & Resort Sept. 26 with a bronze iguana sculpture taken from the Resort’s Red Sage Bar. The lawyer for Pojoaque Valley School Board Member Jon Paul Romero says Romero admits taking the sculpture.

SANTA FE – A sculpture of an iguana that’s 4 to 5 feet long and weighs up to 150 pounds was stolen from a bar at Pojoaque Pueblo’s Buffalo Thunder resort last month, and a Pojoaque Valley School Board member was quickly identified as the larceny suspect who carried away the bronze reptile.

According to a sheriff’s detective’s report filed in court, a surveillance camera caught school board member Jon Paul Romero, 45, picking up the sculpture from its spot in the Red Sage Bar and leaving the resort the night of Sept. 26.

The sheriff’s office later executed a search warrant at Romero’s home and recovered the sculpture, said to be valued at several thousand dollars.

Looking through a window, the detective spotted the bronze iguana “lying on the living room floor” at Romero’s house on Wyman Drive, according to the sheriff’s office report.

Romero has not been arrested or charged. The sheriff’s office recently turned the case over to the District Attorney’s Office to determine if charges would be filed.

Wednesday afternoon, District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco said she has referred Romero to a pre-prosecution program, where first-time, non-violent offenders can avoid charges and prosecution by meeting certain requirements.

Efforts by the Journal on Wednesday to reach Romero using the phone number and email address listed on the Pojoaque Valley School District website were unsuccessful.

While Romero’s lawyer said he does not have a felony record, he has been arrested several times on DWI charges.

When Romero ran unsuccessfully for a Santa Fe County Commission seat in 2010, court records showed he had six drunken-driving arrests and two convictions between 1991 and 2003. The state had revoked his driver’s license four times.

At the time, Romero said he’d made mistakes as a younger man and no longer drinks and drives and that he was serving on the county DWI Planning Council so he could help educate others.

Tom Clark, Romero’s lawyer, said Wednesday that Romero doesn’t dispute that he took the iguana sculpture and acknowledges that he had been drinking. “There’s video footage that it happened,” Clark said.

He added that Romero is “being treated the same as any similarly situated defendant” with no felony criminal offenses on his record by being offered the pre-prosecution program. Romero’s past DWIs were misdemeanors, Clark said.

“He’s taking responsibility, and he’s going to enter the program,” Clark added.

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