NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Attorney General’s Office has now launched a criminal investigation into a top county official for suspected criminal activity; it all started when Catron County workers saw something concerning. Those local officials contacted the state auditor’s office and asked them to look into some of the spendings in the sheriff’s office. The auditor says it quickly became what he called a case of “deep concern.”

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“These accusations involved a former sheriff of Catron County which again, unfortunately, is during this time when law enforcement is front and center with public safety — you have an official who, certainly at the bare minimum, had several questionable transactions during his administration. We are concerned there may have been embezzlement in this situation,” said State Auditor Brian Colón.

The auditor is not naming that former sheriff but we do know that the audit went back four years during the time when Ian Fletcher was leading the department. KRQE News 13 asked the auditor how much money was potentially involved, he said the investigation is ongoing but it could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Since that investigation is active, he can’t say much more but News 13 did obtain the 2020 audit from Catron County which raises questions about the sheriff’s department p-card spending, a lack of receipts or claims of lost receipts and some questionable purchases on things like medication and food in Arizona.

The audit also cites problems with the lack of policy or checks and balances but at one point, someone in the small county spoke up. “In this particular case, I have to say in this case, it was civil servants and officials in Catron County that brought this to our attention,” Colón said.

Sheriff Fletcher resigned in June of 2021 when the allegations began coming to light. He said it was for another job opportunity; he had been in office since 2014. At this point, no criminal charges have been filed but the attorney general’s office just recently started looking into the case. They say these cases take time.

Keith Hughes is now the sheriff in Catron County. He said when he was appointed in July, he immediately enacted new policies and procedures. All sheriff’s department money is now handled by the treasurer’s office to ensure checks and balances. Hughes said before the sheriff’s office handled its own money.