County didn’t check employee’s long criminal record

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The county worker arrested for stealing money on the job and stealing his co-worker’s social security numbers, has a long criminal history and is a convicted felon. So how did he land the county job?

Before he was an assistant manager with Parks and Recreation in Bernalillo County, Nicholas Jones was already a convicted thief, with a history of violent arrests.

When Bernalillo County caught on last week that Jones was stealing thousands of dollars, his bosses said they were surprised.

“Everyone says he was just a model employee, everybody loved him, he was awesome, a rising star,” explained Tia Bland, Bernalillo County spokesperson.

But the model employee’s record, doesn’t portray a model citizen. Before he was hired in 2009, Jones had a string of arrests, and pled guilty to armed robbery with a deadly weapon, several shoplifting charges, car theft, domestic violence, and, he’s been accused of embezzlement.

Jones was hired on initially as a temporary groundskeeper, and county officials said they didn’t do background checks on temps at the time.

“He did such a great job as a temporary employee that he earned an opportunity as a full time employee, so he just rolled into that full time position, and there wasn’t a background check done at that time,” said Bland.

Jones was arrested last week after deputies said he stole a county car and company gas cards, then racked up 123 charges for gas totaling about $6,500.

Investigators said surveillance video showed Jones pumping other gas station customers’ gas with the county cards in exchange for cash.

Deputies said Jones admitted to stealing co-workers social security numbers from Human Resources so he could use the gas cards.

A county employee told deputies that “Jones had recently become disgruntled due to being passed over for a promotion.”

“I think the people that worked with him are really disappointed and really troubled by what’s happened because he was such a great employee,” explained Bland.

According to a criminal complaint, a county worker told deputies that Jones had been a heavy heroin user in the past.

County officials said as of 2011, they do background checks on all applicants and volunteers, even if they’re promoted from within or transfer to another department.

Jones has been fired and the county has changed its gas card policy. Now, workers can only use them at one of the county’s four on-site fueling stations.

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