May 3, 2017

Audit finds $850K stolen from rural water association

An audit found $850,000 in water funds were stolen from a small community in southeast New Mexico, about six miles south of Carlsbad.

That was the news from State Auditor Tim Keller’s office earlier this week, which announced the apparent theft of the money from the Otis Mutual Domestic Water Consumers & Sewage Works Association.

The money from the association was earmarked for operations and upkeep of the system, which provides drinkable water for 4,000 people in the rural area.

The money was discovered to be missing  during the association’s annual audit. Once discovered, the matter was referred to the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“This is a staggering amount of money for a small community that should be used for water, not an employee’s bank account,” Keller said. “We are working quickly to help bring accountability and we appreciate the cooperation of the water association. While the community recovers from having nearly the entire bank account drained, we urge them to implement policies and procedures to keep this from happening again.”

Every government entity in New Mexico is required to conduct an annual audit.

Keller noted this is the second-such recent case in a rural mutual domestic water association. The former president of the Hanover Mutual Domestic Water Consumer Association was charged with several misdemeanors for allegedly funneling association money to his son’s business.

According to the Silver City Daily Press Baxter Edwin “Eddie” Evatt allegedly signed nearly 100 checks for over $120,000 to himself, immediate family members and businesses with ties to his relatives.