Former Navajo Nation employee convicted of federal program fraud | USAO-NM
Relda Martinez, 57, of Prewitt, New Mexico, was sentenced in federal court Feb. 10 to five years probation and 50 hours of community service for federal program fraud. Martinez pleaded guilty on July 14, 2021.
A federal grand jury indicted Martinez on October 16, 2020. According to the indictment and other court filings, from 2014 to 2016, Martinez was employed as the Community Services Coordinator at the White Horse Lake Chapter House (WHLCH) on the Navajo Nation, which gave him access to the WHLCH financial accounting system. Martinez used his access to issue numerous checks to other parties ostensibly as payment for legitimate work, but were issued for amounts greater than the actual cost of the work or for work that was not performed. Martinez admitted the money went to herself, family members and friends.
Among the checks issued by Martinez were 12 checks issued to an individual identified in court records as “AK.” However, Martinez knew that AK was not a licensed archaeologist and that AK had not carried out any investigation.
“IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners, will vigorously pursue individuals who take advantage of their positions and embezzle public funds for their own financial gain,” said Andy Tsui, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Denver Field Office. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to promote honest and ethical financial operations at all levels, and to prosecute those who violate public trust.”
“We hope these prosecutions and convictions will deter others who are considering stealing federal funds for their own personal gain,” said Jamie DePaepe, acting special agent in charge of the Department of Interior in the Office of the Inspector General of the western region. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate individuals who breach the public trust and bring them to justice.”
In addition to his probation and community service, Martinez must pay $26,885.55 in restitution, either in full immediately or in monthly installments of $250.00 or 10% of his monthly income, whichever is greater. .
The IRS Criminal Investigation Office in Durango and the Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General investigated the matter. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Gerson prosecuted the case.
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