ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Longtime state lawmaker and Albuquerque Public Schools employee Sheryl Williams Stapleton is accused of stealing millions of dollars from taxpayers. Wednesday morning, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant on her home and businesses where the allegations were revealed.
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A 32-page search warrant outlines how Stapleton is accused of stealing more than $5.3 million from APS, starting 13 years ago. It was uncovered shortly after APS Superintendent Scott Elder took over and reported suspicious behavior this year.
Read APS superintendent’s letter to Attorney General. Story continues below.
According to the search warrant, it didn’t take long for the Attorney General’s Office to uncover evidence of possible racketeering, money laundering and receiving kickbacks. They allege that Stapleton convinced APS to contract with a software company to provide services to students. However, they allege that the company never produced a workable program and was not a legitimate company. They were paid more than $5 million over 13 years.
Wednesday agents were at Stapleton’s home gathering potential evidence of that. They were also at her business the “Taste of the Caribbean,” a restaurant near the University of New Mexico where investigators believed she used some of that stolen money. They also allege Stapleton used her position in the Roundhouse to funnel other state funds to two nonprofit foundations she ran.
The New Mexico Attorney General says this all went unreported until recently. “I would hope the New Mexico legislature will strengthen conflicts of interest and certain disclosures in order to mitigate some of these risks,” said Hector Balderas, New Mexico Attorney General.
Balderas would not say what charged his office is looking to pursue.
According to APS’s website, Stapleton is CTE Coordinator/Director, Perkins Project Director for Albuquerque Public Schools. Rep. Stapleton represents District 19. She has been a representative since 1995. This past legislature, Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton was re-elected as Majority Floor Leader. She is the longest-serving Democratic member in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued the following statement:
“I am deeply, deeply troubled by the reports this morning about a law enforcement investigation into Rep. Stapleton. People are innocent until proven otherwise, and I know investigators will follow the facts wherever they lead. I await more information like all New Mexicans. But I will say that public confidence in government is seriously damaged by even the appearance of impropriety, or illegal activity, which is why public officials must always hold themselves to the highest possible standard of behavior. New Mexicans expect and deserve elected officials who, regardless of party, will put the people before themselves. Anything less violates a sacred public trust and must be dealt with accordingly.”Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos, and House Majority Caucus Chair D. Wonda Johnson issued the following statement:
“We are shocked and dismayed by the deeply troubling allegations against Rep. Stapleton. We have counted her as a valued colleague and have never seen any instances of impropriety or criminal behavior in her work serving in the House, but New Mexicans deserve to know that their elected officials hold the highest ethical standards and are free of corruption. We will fully cooperate with investigating authorities and will closely monitor the situation as the facts come out regarding these allegations. We will also begin today the Interim Legislative Ethics Committee process to appropriately investigate all allegations related to legislative service.”
The State Auditor released the following statement Wednesday evening:
“The Office of the State Auditor worked with the Attorney General’s Office on this case, as it has with many others, and will continue to provide support going forward. The Office of the State Auditor will always stand for accountability in government and that accountability is deeply critical when it comes to elected officials.”Brian Colón, NM State Auditor