NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The company at the center of the fraud case against former House Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton claims they are an innocent victim. The owner of Robotics has filed a federal suit to get almost a half-million dollars the feds have seized.
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The suit claims Stapleton took advantage of her 30-year relationship with the company’s owner and its lax business practices to defraud his company. “The investigation was very complicated going back that many years,” says New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.
Johnson believes Sheryl Williams Stapleton is guilty of stealing the money and that he only became aware of the scheme when state and federal investigators started looking into his company, “Robotics.” Now, Johnson wants the feds to return $450,000 in funds they seized in the investigation.
Investigators say Robotics had a contract with Albuquerque Public Schools for years for software in the district rarely used, and that Sheryl Williams Stapleton and Johnson were longtime friends. Defending the company, the suit claims Robotics is a small company with no permanent headquarters.
Investigators have painted Robotics as a company with a non-functioning website and no contacts. “Initially, it was a series of procurement irregularities that caught the attention of the procurement director,” says APS Outside Legal Council Luis Robles.
Johnson admits his company’s employees gave Stapleton blank checks to cover various expenses, and that the company did not keep detailed records of where the money went.
However, he says Robotics did nothing wrong and the company is a victim of Stapleton’s alleged scheme. Johnson’s lawsuit argues Robotics should keep the money they earned in their contracts with APS. Federal search warrants state Robotics directed APS to send payment checks to an Albuquerque post office near the Sunport which is owned by someone with the same name as Stapleton’s son.
“A school district deserves to have the highest standard of accountability and the highest protection because these involve our students and our children,” Balderas says.
Investigators say they have video surveillance of Stapleton depositing checks written from APS to Robotics. The new lawsuit claims someone forged Johnson’s name on checks that Robotics is accused of paying to Stapleton’s restaurant and various other businesses.
Joseph Johnson says he passed a lie detector test that shows he never stole from APS or funneled money to Stapleton. The lawsuit says Robotics needs $453,000 to defend itself in this matter and other related lawsuits concerning their business.