California Lottery winner faces 10 years in prison, fines for abusing horses near Sanger

Several of the malnourished horses found in 2012 on Jose Francisco Romo’s ranch.
Several of the malnourished horses found in 2012 on Jose Francisco Romo’s ranch. Special to The Bee

A California Lottery winner arrested in 2012 for allegedly abusing horses on his 40-acre ranch near Sanger entered pleas on 11 counts of felony animal cruelty on Friday, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office said.

Jose Francisco Romo, 51, faces a maximum sentence of nine years and eight months in prison, a $20,000 fine and mandatory counseling. He will be sentenced Oct. 27. Romo also will be prohibited from owning animals for 10 years.

The Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals first learned of the animal cruelty when a neighbor called the group in February 2012. The society investigated Romo’s ranch just northeast of Sanger, which he purchased after he and his wife won a $40 million Super Lotto jackpot, and found 11 neglected and starving horses.

Fresno County sheriff’s deputies arrested Romo shortly after and released him on $40,000 bail. He signed over ownership of his 11 horses to the CCSPSCA in 2012.

CCSPCA spokesman Walter Salvari said one horse still is being cared for by the society and is available for adoption. The other 10 have been adopted in the last three years.

As part of his conviction, Romo could be held liable for the cost of their upkeep – which could be thousands of dollars. Each horse costs about $26 per day to take care of.

The case was prosecuted by the newly formed Animal Cruelty Unit of the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.