April 8, 2016

Auditor investigating embezzlement in Bernalillo Schools

The State Auditor’s office announced Friday morning an investigation into alleged embezzlement at Bernalillo Public Schools.

The announcement came as a release sent to media Friday morning.

Tim Keller

Tim Keller

“Our education dollars must be safeguarded from fraud,” State Auditor Tim Keller said. “The investigation will shed light on whether tens of thousands of dollars were funneled away from the needs of the schools. We appreciate the district and the police department for bringing these concerns forward and we will work together to get to the bottom of these serious allegations.”

The allegations say that a former employee embezzled $68,000 from the district.

The Town of Bernalillo Police Department asked for help in the investigation because of the financial nature of the crime; the State Auditor’s office is more equipped to do such investigations.

The Auditor’s office did not release any other details on the alleged embezzlement.

However, a 2010 report from then-State Auditor Hector Balderas found that Bernalillo Public Schools was “high risk” for misusing funds.

“What I’m discovering in school districts across the state is that when conditions like this exist, it’s a playground for people who want to embezzle taxpayer money or abuse the system,” Balderas said according to a 2010 Albuquerque Journal article. “Jemez was a good example of this.”

In Jemez Public Schools, a business manager pleaded guilty to embezzling $3.4 million from the district. It was the largest public school embezzlement scheme in state history.

In 2015, the State Auditor found that a former Española Public School District elementary school principal misused more than $12,000 from fundraisers, including a candy fundraiser.