*Editor’s note below
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –Twelve employees at Albuquerque Public Schools will be placed on paid leave amid an internal investigation of how $5.3 million was allegedly swindled from the district over 13 years, with no one reporting it until recently. It’s all linked to Sheryl Williams Stapleton’s alleged racketeering, money laundering and kickback scheme revealed Wednesday.
Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton Coverage / Story continues below
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Luis Robles, the outside counsel for APS, said investigators are looking into the role that other APS employees may have played in assisting Rep. Williams Stapleton.
“There may be individuals who are unwittingly involved in what’s happening here. Those individuals need to be segregated out and away from those individuals who are involved in a wrongful sort of way,” said Robles.
Robles said the employees are from different departments but all have ties to the district’s procurement or use of the Cyberquest software that’s been mentioned in the attorney general’s criminal investigation. They include administrators, teachers, and school and clerical staff.
The AG’s search warrant affidavit alleges that Williams Stapleton convinced APS to contract with a company, called Robotics, to provide that Cyberquest software for students. The company was paid more than $5 million over 13 years, according to the documents.
Wednesday morning, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant on her home and businesses where the allegations were revealed. 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 earlier this year.
According to the AG’s investigation, Stapleton could have been moving money paid by APS to Robotics to her personal business and two non-profits. KRQE News 13 asked the APS attorney who should have been overseeing Stapleton and how this could have happened.
“That’s part of the investigation. Yes, she does have an immediate supervisor. But whether that supervisor was unwittingly approving, what seemed to be appropriate as opposed to be a willing participant as something that was inappropriate- we are in no position to say,” Robles said.
Robles says Stapleton’s supervisor is one of the employees now on paid leave but right now, there’s no evidence of any wrongdoing. The AG’s Office has also not identified any other APS employees as a target in the criminal investigation.
The APS website lists Stapleton’s salary as $78,000 a year. She’s the director of the APS Career and Technical Education Department. She is among the 12 employees on paid leave amid this investigation.
*In a previous version of this story, it said 13 APS employees were on administrative leave, that is incorrect. APS says 12 APS employees are on leave.