SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A local contractor has admitted to helping take funds from WildEarth Guardians, a nonprofit that works to monitor and protect western lands. Jeffrey Ham, 46, from El Prado, New Mexico, is now facing prison time.
From 2015 in 2019, Ham ran an environmental company called Timberline Environmental, LLC, which he used to run the fraud scheme, according to allegations made earlier this year. Ham recently admitted to helping former WildEarth Guardians employee, James I. Matison, 57, from Boulder, CO, take more than $240,000 from the nonprofit, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court.
Ham admitted to pre-signed, blank checks to Matison. Then, Matison wrote the checks to a company Matison controlled, according to the plea, essentially shuffling funds away from WildEarth Guardians.
When the allegations came to light, WildEarth Guardians released a statement. The nonprofit said they planned on putting stricter controls on their accounting.
Now that Ham has admitted to working to commit fraud, he could face serious jail time. If he receives the maximum sentence, he could spend 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.