Video Of DWI Arrest Reveals How DWI Dismissal Bribery Corruption Scheme Worked; Hideous Shake Down By One Of Albuquerque’s  Finest Caught On Tape; Fully Investigate, Prosecute And Disbarment Only Beginning To Restore Faith In APD And Criminal Justice System

On Friday January 19, it was reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) executed search warrants and raided 3 homes of Albuquerque Police officers and the home and the law office of prominent DWI criminal defense attorney Thomas Clear, III.  All 6 are allegedly involved in a bribery and conspiracy scheme spanning a decade to dismiss DWI cases. DA Sam Bregman ordered the dismissed 196  DWI cases because of the scandal due to the main witnesses’ credibility being called into question  which in all the  cases are  APD officers.  The Albuquerque Police Department has opened its own criminal investigation with an Internal Affairs investigation of the 5 officers.

The 5 cops implicated have been identified as Officers Honorio Alba, Joshua Montaño, Nelson Ortiz, Harvey Johnson and Lt. Justin Hunt with all placed on paid administrative leave.  Lt. Justin Hunt has resigned from APD. The FBI searched the homes of Alba and Johnson and the law offices of Thomas Clear III and the home of Clear’s paralegal Ricardo “Rick” Mendez. The US Department of Justice and US Attorney’s office have confirmed the APD police officers and the criminal defense attorney are at the center of a federal investigation involving the dismissal of hundreds of pending DWI criminal cases by the APD Officers ostensibly for some sort of remuneration to have the cases dismissed.

On February 22, it was widely reported that APD lapel camera video as well as a recording by a victimized citizen gave insight to some extent into just how the APD DWI dismissal and bribery scheme worked with the defense attorney. This blog article reports on the shake down.


On June 25, 2023 Officer Joshua Montaño stopped Carlos Sandoval Smith on suspicion of drunk driving and Sandoval Smith had his niece in the vehicle with him. Officer Montaño  has Sandoval Smith do a field sobriety test and he makes the decision to make an arrest and takes him to be booked. Montaño takes Sandoval Smith’s Apple watch and gold rope bracelet while booking Sandoval Smith.  Two breath analyzer tests were administered to Sandoval Smith and he was found below the legal limit for DWI but Sandoval Smith was still charged with DWI by Montaño and then released.

The next day,  Officer Montaño  calls Sandoval Smith to tell him his jewelry was not tagged into evidence and misplaced but he could get back his personal belongings from an attorney friend of Montaño’s who was identified as DWI Defense Attorney Tom Clear. Smith goes to the law offices of Clear where he meets paralegal Rick Mendez.  Suspicious, Smith goes to the law offices with a hidden recorder. Rick Mendez returns the personal items to Sandoval Smith and tells him that he has a guarantee way to avoid a DWI conviction and that is to hire Tom Clear for $8,500. The arrangement was to be that Officer Montaño would not appear for court and the case would be dismissed.  Sandoval Smith did not take the offer and he hired a public defender and the case was dismissed.


A 71-minute video from Montaño’s lapel camera shows Sandoval-Smith being pulled over, taking field sobriety tests on the street and being prepared for booking at a Downtown prisoner transport facility. Following is the narrative:

APD Officer Joshua Montaño’s lapel video shows that on June 25, 2023, the 42-year-old Carlos Sandoval Smith was stopped near I-25 and Central. The conversation between Albuquerque Police DWI Officer Joshua Montaño and Sandova Smith on the lapel camera is as follows:

Officer Montaño: “I’m Officer Montaño with APD, I stopped you for speeding.”

Smith replied: “Yes sir.”

Officer Montaño: “Carlos, why you going so fast, man?”

Smith: “I apologize, I was just trying to get over in the lane and get on the freeway. My bad.”

Officer Montaño examined Sandoval Smith’s eyes to see if they were blood shot and ran Sandoval Smith through a series of field sobriety tests. “I’m nervous,” Smith admitted, adding he was concerned about his 16-year-old cousin who was watching from the car.  “I don’t wanna leave my cousin,” Smith said. “I gotta be a good example. I shouldn’t have sped, I’m sorry sir.” Officer Montaño replied “Well let’s just see how you do, okay?” .

Smith cooperates with the eye examination, walks in a straight line, and mentions problems with his knee when asked to balance on one leg. Smith asks  “This is the bad knee, so can I do this leg instead?”  Officer Montaño replied. “Any leg you’d like.”  Smith then counts backward and successfully recites a portion of the alphabet. After the field tests Officer Montaño tells Smith  “I do have to give you the opportunity to do a breath test.” At this  point, Sandoval Smith is placed in handcuffs and driven to the Prisoner Transport Center downtown. Sandoval Smith had to leave his 16 old cousin alone  to wait for a ride.

At the Prisoner Transport Center,  Sandoval Smith willingly took two breathalyzer tests. After blowing below the legal limit of .08 twice, Smith was still arrested and booked into jail for DWI.  During the breathalyzer tests, Officer Montaño removed his lapel camera and placed it at a distance while he interacted  with Sandoval Smith.

Montaño tells Sandoval Smith “I’m gonna take off your i-watch – your Apple watch.”  The Video shows Officer Montaño taking off Smith’s Apple watch and gold braid bracelet.   The fact that Montaño took off his APD  lapel camera to interact with Carlos Sandoval Smith while he was effectuating the arrest was improper and it violated APD’s standard operating procedures.

The next day DWI Officer Joshua Montaño called Sandoval Smith and left  a voice message.  The  phone message was:

“Hey Carlos, this is Officer Montaño with APD. I was just giving you a call because I – I don’t know if you realize, but I’m sure you do that – some of your jewelry was missing from the property from Sunday evening. And it looks like the PTC officers didn’t put that in your bag, but I have it.”

In a follow-up phone call, Smith says Officer Montaño told him he could get his watch and gold bracelet back from his attorney friend  DWI Defense Attorney Thomas Clear and he was given Clear’s address.

Becoming suspicious, Sandoval Smith contacted Clear’s office and made arrangements to pick up his property but also decided to record the interaction. Smith recorded his interaction with Clear’s Paralegal Ricardo ‘Rick’ Mendez  the day he retrieved his bracelet.  Below is a transcript of a portion of Smith’s interaction with who he says is Rick Mendez:

Smith: How are you sir?
Paralegal: You Carlos?
Smith: Yes I am, sir.

Smith: What is my next best step to try and not get this on my record, what do you recommend I do?

Paralegal: If you need to get off of this –
Smith: I do.

Paralegal: Okay. You’re at the right place. If you’re one of those people that can live with it, then go hire a cheap attorney. … We’re not the cheapest.

Smith: Okay.
Paralegal: So we charge $8,500 and you could do it in payments.
Smith: And with you representing me, that would guarantee that this doesn’t go on my record?

Paralegal: Yes.
Smith: Okay. And the odds of me not going with you and going with a public defender, what do you think about that?
Paralegal: Roll of the dice.

Links to quoted news sources are here:


Throughout his entire interaction with Officer Montaño, Carlos Sandoval Smith was honest, very polite, very cooperative and even apologetic, he did everything he was told to do and answered all questions.  Ultimately, he participated in two field sobriety tests that he passed but he was still charged and booked.  To add to his victimization, and attempt was made to shake him down even further for $8,500.

What is so very disgusting is that this  entire interaction between Carlos Sandoval Smith and APD Police Officer Joshua Montaño amounts to nothing more than a hideous “shake down” of an innocent man by a sworn APD Police Officer who violated his oath of office to protect and defend.  It was nothing more than a complete abuse of power by law enforcement to effectuate a crime and to victimize an innocent man.

All people should feel safe when they deal with police, even if they are being pulled over for a traffic stop. No one should ever be subject of extortion nor intimidation by law enforcement or for that matter lawyers. There is no place in the criminal justice system for this type of corruption and behavior.

Then there is the matter of a criminal defense attorney and his para legal having no problem conspiring with law enforcement to victimize and extort innocent people.  An attorney guaranteeing and outcome in a criminal prosecution in exchange for money is criminal and a violation of the Code of Professional conduct deserving of permanent disbarment from the practice of law.

There is absolutely no doubt that APD’s reputation has been trashed to a major extent because of this scandal. APD will likely be viewed by many as again having just another bastion of “dirty and corrupt cops” who have brought dishonor to their department and to the department’s professed values of “Pride, Integrity, Fairness and Respect”.  This is so even before any charges have been filed against anyone, before any one is fired from APD and before any action is brought against the police officers involved for government corruption and criminal conspiracy to dismiss cases working with a prominent criminal defense attorney. Should the criminal defense attorney be charged and convicted of the crimes, he is likely facing jail time as well as disbarment from the practice of law.

There is little doubt that this whole DWI dismissal bribery scandal has shaken the public’s faith in our criminal justice system.  The only way that any semblance of faith can be restored and for people to begin trusting APD again is if all the police officers involved in this scandal are held accountable, the lawyers involved are held accountable.  That will only happen  when there is aggressive prosecutions and convictions, the police officers are terminated and they lose thier law enforcement certification and disbarment occurs with the attorney.


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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.