State continues oversight, recovery of cash stolen from ‘Desert State’ trust fund

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Months after a prominent New Mexico businessman was sentenced to federal prison for stealing millions of dollars from dozens of special needs New Mexicans, the state and feds are still trying to recover funds for the vulnerable victims.

Desert State Life Management and its trustee-owner, Paul Donisthorpe hit state regulators radar in early 2017 over concerns about financial mismanagement.

By 2018, Donisthorpe admitted to stealing millions of dollars from at least 77 clients of Desert State Life Management (DSLM). The non-profit trust company oversaw millions of dollars of funds that belonged to medically and mentally disabled victims who were often required to keep their finances in a trust by court order.

“I think about them a lot,” said Christopher Moya, speaking of the victims. “I think about them every day.”

Director of the state’s Financial Institutions Division, Moya has been involved in the DSLM case from the beginning.

Along with being one of the state’s top financial regulators, Moya is also tasked with overseeing the future of DSLM as the receiver or trustee of the now-defunct non-profit.

“The monies that were to be held in these trusts were to provide for these individuals for the rest of their life and their medical needs,” said Moya.

Over the ten years Donisthorpe ran DSLM, investigators believe Donisthorpe stole $6.8 million from various trust accounts. In February, Donishthorpe pleaded guilty to charged tied to the theft and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Now five months after Donisthorpe’s sentence, state regulators are still managing DSLM client funds. Roughly 60 clients are still a part of DSLM, accounting for more than $250,000 in funds. The work comes in addition to the regulation the state’s FID is already tasked with overseeing around 15,000 financial firms, including banks, credit unions and other lenders.

“We deal with this day to day managing reconciliations of the accounts, bringing in money, paying whatever bills need to be paid, there’s medical bills that need to be paid, there’s prescriptions that need to be filled,” said Moya.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars still remain tied up in Donisthorpe’s assets, including an Albuquerque office building, an Angel Fire resort home and a Texas cattle business.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed their official forfeiture actions,” said Moya. “We’ve done everything we can to provide information to them that we have given them names, numbers, whatever information that they need.”

It’s unclear though when those assets may turn into cash for victims who desperately need it. In the meantime, Moya says he’ll continue his work with the clients of DSLM for as long as it takes.

“I will be committed to the very end to make sure that any outcome that comes from this will benefit them the best way that we possibly can,” said Moya. “The best outcome is all that we’re pursuing here, whatever that is… that’s unknown, but that something that I’m striving for.”

The state says it’s hoping to transfer the remaining 60 or so trust accounts to another company by the end of the year, but they’ll need a court order to do it.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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