A subcontractor working at Topaz Solar Farm was arrested in late April after other employees reported seeing him with a firearm and a “bag of dope,” according to sources from the Sheriff’s Department and the construction site.
Jaime Maldonado, Jr., 35, was arrested on the job site on April 24 after the Sheriff’s Department received a call from an employee at the 550-megawatt solar plant who thought he saw Maldonado brandishing a weapon, Sheriff’s Dept. Spokesman Tony Cipolla told New Times.
According to Cipolla, the department dispatched its new resident deputy to the remote area, who contacted the suspect. After a short investigation, the deputy reported discovering a handgun, as well as approximately a half-ounce of methamphetamine.
Maldonado pleaded not guilty on May 8 to one felony count of possession of a firearm by a felon, as well as another count of possession of a controlled substance.
First Solar Director of Global Communications Steve Krum told New Times that Maldonado wasn’t an employee of First Solar, but was instead a subcontractor. Krum declined to comment further on the incident other than to say it was “duly handled by local law enforcement.”
Maldonado has a felony narcotics conviction dating back to May 2002, and is thus not allowed to possess a firearm, according to court records.
As of press time, Maldonado was no longer in custody at the SLO County Jail, according to the jail’s inmate database.
He’s due in court for a preliminary hearing on June 10. His attorney, Santa Maria-based Michael Clayton, could not immediately be reached for comment.