Former Santa Fe sheriff donates kidney to retired judge to repay him

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A former Santa Fe County sheriff who lost his job for stealing, is now giving in a big way.

He just donated a kidney to a well-known former judge, he said it’s to repay the judge for something amazing he did for him and his family, years ago.

This relationship goes back decades, even before both men started working in public service in Santa Fe, now their story has come full circle.

This story started three decades ago.

“Somebody gave me his number and told me to call him, and that he was a good attorney and that he helps people,” said Greg Solano, a former Santa Fe County Sheriff.

At 20 years old, Solano lost his mother in a car accident and he desperately needed help. He was the oldest of four children and wanted to adopt his three siblings.

“He arranged for a probate on my mother’s case because she didn’t have a will, and he got me custody of the kids,” said Solano.

The attorney that helped Solano was Michael Vigil, who would later become a state district court judge. Not only did Vigil help Solano, he didn’t charge him a dime.

“He just shook my hand, and said good luck, and take care. And that was it,” said Solano. “It meant everything, he kept the family together.”

Fast-forward thirty years, in 2011, Solano was arrested for embezzlement. For reselling hundreds of items he stole from the department while on the job, as a Santa Fe County Sheriff, on Ebay. He eventually spent six weeks behind bars.

As for Judge Vigil, he had retired in 2012 after nearly 20 years on the bench.

Then their paths crossed again when Solano read a story about Vigil in the newspaper.

“He was retiring because he needed a kidney, and he was trying to find someone to donate one,” said Solano.

Solano said he didn’t think twice.

“Right away I knew I had to do it,” said Solano. “I got tested and I was a match,”

That was in 2013.

Tuesday, Solano donated his left kidney to Vigil at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

Solano said he feels lucky to be given the opportunity to repay Vigil in exactly the way he received help 33 years ago.

“I’ve met his kids and grandkids and they’re just so happy that their grandfather will be around longer, so I’m happy, too,” said Solano.

When KRQE News 13 asked Solano about people who may think he is doing this for show or publicity to make up for his past, he said he can’t control what people think, and said he’s just trying to live a positive life now.

Solano said Vigil is doing well. While this doesn’t top finding a kidney donor, you may recall Vigil also won $1 million in the lottery shortly after retiring from the bench a few years ago. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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