Former Pueblo leader ready to change plea in $3.6M theft case

One of the office buildings owned by the 19 Pueblo tribes at the site of the former Albuquerque Indian School in New Mexico. Photo from IndianPueblos.Com

Bruce Sanchez, a former governor of Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico, is set to change his plea in $3.6 million theft case, The Albuquerque Journal reports.

Sanchez and Thomas Keesing, a non-Indian businessman, were accused of stealing the money from the Indian Pueblos Federal Development Corp., an entity set up by the 19 Pueblo tribes of New Mexico. Both were due to go to trial next month but they will now apparently plead guilty, the paper reports.

“The IPFDC was established to develop real estate held in trust for the 19 Pueblos in New Mexico for the purpose of benefiting the members of those Pueblos. Bruce Sanchez, who was entrusted by Pueblo leaders to spearhead that development, is alleged to have embezzled millions of dollars that should have been used for the benefit of the Pueblos for his own personal use," former U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said at the time of the September 2012 indictment. "Our Pueblos, and indeed all of our communities, are entitled to, expect and deserve to be served only by the most honest public servants. According to the indictment, Bruce Sanchez allegedly betrayed the people he was duty-bound to serve.”

The 19 Pueblo tribes own trust property in Albuquerque that houses office buildings that are leased to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Yet the IPFDC was essentially broke, the Journal reported, a situation attributed to the theft.

Sanchez was president and CEO of IPFDC when the money went missing, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He approved inflated false and fraudulently inflated invoices that were paid to a company controlled by Keesing, authorities said.

"Keesing allegedly shared the proceeds of the fraudulently obtained IPFDC payments with Sanchez," the 2012 press release stated.

Get the Story:
Plea hearing set for former Santa Ana governor (The Albuquerque Journal 1/28)

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Former Pueblo leader accused of embezzling $3.6M from tribes (10/3)

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