Former state lawmaker’s restaurant afloat amid kickback scheme investigation

Business

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The restaurant owned by now-former state lawmaker Sheryl Williams Stapleton is still in business a few weeks after allegations that she stole millions came to light. Special agents raided the cafe in late July, looking for evidence.


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KRQE News 13 only saw a few customers going in and out of A Taste of the Caribbean over the course of a couple of hours on Friday. Williams Stapleton has been on TV in the past plugging her restaurant. “We’ve been at the state fair for 15, 16, 18 years at the state fair. And then, we decided to launch out and have a central location within the city,” Stapleton said in an interview on July 22.

It was just two weeks ago when agents with the state Attorney General’s office served a search warrant at the Caribbean restaurant on Central across from UNM, at Williams Stapleton’s home, and her office at Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters as part of the investigation that she was steering contracts to dummy companies that funneled the money back to her.

The search warrant states that from June 2014 to December 2020, the restaurant received 57 checks from one of those companies totaling more than $319,000. Agents have said they’ve seen Williams Stapleton and her husband, who manages the restaurant, working there at various times of the day.

Meanwhile, people are ripping the business online. One Google reviewer said people should check out “the jerk chicken combo with a side of governmental corruption,” and try their “super spicy embezzlement sauce.”

A neighboring business told News 13 the restaurant seemed busy enough that they wouldn’t need other means to stay afloat.”Like a lot of people, I was shocked, of course,” Q’s Cakes and Sweets Boutique Owner Queneesha Meyers explained. “I think the business was doing well enough on its own. I mean, it’s a very unique business here in town.”

Investigators believe most of the money she stole is gone. They have seized almost $450,000 from her accounts. It’s unclear how much came from the restaurant’s accounts.

Williams Stapleton has not been charged in this case and is still on paid leave with APS.

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