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Press Release

Former Navajo Nation employee sentenced for federal program fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Former Community Services Coordinator at the White Horse Lake Chapter House must make restitution

Relda Martinez, 57, of Prewitt, New Mexico, was sentenced in federal court on Feb. 10 to five years of 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 Oct. 16, 2020. According to the indictment and other court records, from 2014 through 2016, Martinez was employed as the Community Service Coordinator at the White Horse Lake Chapter House (WHLCH) on the Navajo Nation, which afforded her access to the WHLCH financial accounting system. Martinez used her access to issue numerous checks to other parties ostensibly as payments for legitimate work, but were issued in amounts greater than the actual cost of the work or for work that was not performed. Martinez admitted that the money went to herself, her family members and her friends.

Among the checks issued by Martinez were 12 checks issued to a person identified in court records as “A.K.”  Martinez listed the purpose of the checks as for archeological surveys, which are required for any land development on the Navajo Nation. However, Martinez knew that A.K. was not a licensed archeologist and that A.K. did not perform any surveys.

“IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners, will vigorously pursue individuals who take advantage of their positions and misappropriate government funds for their own financial gain,” said Andy Tsui, Special Agent in Charge IRS Criminal Investigation Denver Field Office. “We remain firm in our commitment to promote honest and ethical financial operations at all levels, and to prosecute those who violate the public’s trust.”

“We hope this prosecution and sentencing will serve as a deterrent to others contemplating stealing federal funds for their own personal gain,” said Jamie DePaepe, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General’s Western Region. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate individuals who violate the public’s trust and bring them to justice.”

 In addition to her 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 percent of her monthly income, whichever is greater.

The IRS Criminal Investigation Durango Office and the Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Gerson prosecuted the case.

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Updated February 14, 2022

Financial Fraud
Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 22-29