|The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.
Albuquerque Indian School land development scheme backfires|
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Staff Writer
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Santa Ana Pueblo Governor Bruce Sanchez was indicted by a federal grand jury in Albuquerque on Sept. 25.
The indictment alleges that Sanchez and real estate developer Thomas Keesing conspired to embezzle millions of dollars from the Indian Pueblos Federal Development Corp., which Sanchez, 58, was head of. The corporation had been formed by New Mexico’s 19 pueblo nations to develop land where the now-closed Albuquerque Indian School once existed.
The 15-count indictment charges both men with one count of conspiracy and 10 counts of embezzlement each. In addition, Sanchez has been charged with four separate tax offenses, according to an Associated Press report.
Sanchez’s attorney, Monica Garcia, denies that her client is guilty, telling KOAT-TV in Albuquerque that “(Sanchez) is not guilty of these charges, and we are going to fight them to the end.”
The indictment alleges that Keesing, 59, would submit false or inflated invoices to Sanchez, who would then approve them. According to the indictment, New Mexico Real Estate Inc., which is owned by Keesing, received a total of $3.77 million in payments from the Indian Pueblos Development Corp. from 2003 to 2009, at least $3.6 million of which was obtained under fraudulent pretenses.
In exchange for Sanchez’s approval of the bogus invoices, Keesing paid Sanchez and his consulting company $1.7 million in kickbacks.
Both men were arrested Oct. 2. Sanchez was arraigned on the afternoon of Oct. 2 and pleaded not guilty. He was released on his own recognizance, even though a federal judge called him a flight risk and a danger to his community, according to KOAT. Keesing also pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on his own recognizance Oct. 2.
Garcia responded to KOAT questioning by saying, “ … he is definitely not a flight risk because he has strong ties to the community and the state of New Mexico. He is not guilty of these (charges), and we will get to the bottom of it after a trial.”
In a statement, the Santa Ana Pueblo said that it “does not in any way condone the alleged actions of Bruce Sanchez or … Thomas Keesing and looks forward to justice being served.” The Santa Ana Pueblo community lies approximately 25 miles northeast of Albuquerque, near Bernalillo.
If convicted, both Sanchez and Keesing face up to five years’ imprisonment on each count.
(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at email@example.com)