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Press Release

Navajo Man from Beclabito Pleads Guilty to Federal Arson Charge

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of Federal Initiative to Address the Epidemic Incidence of Violence Against Native Women

ALBUQUERQUE – Benjamin Joe Begay, Jr., 45, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Beclabito, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a federal arson charge.

Begay was arrested on Aug. 19, 2014, on a criminal complaint charging him with arson, and was indicted on that same charge on Aug. 26, 2014.  According to court filings, Begay set fire to the residence he shared with his wife and children on July 31, 2014, following an argument with his family.  The residence, its contents and a grey truck were a total loss to the fire.

During today’s proceedings, Begay admitted willfully and maliciously setting fire to the home he shared with his wife and family on July 31, 2014, on the Navajo Indian Reservation in San Juan County, N.M.  At sentencing, Begay faces a statutory maximum penalty of life in prison and up to five years of supervised release.  His sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety and the Farmington office of the FBI.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers.

This case was brought as part of the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project in the District of New Mexico which is sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women under a grant administered by the Pueblo of Laguna.  The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project seeks to train tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both.  The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project was largely driven by input gathered from annual tribal consultations on violence against women, and is another step in the Justice Department's on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.

Updated March 31, 2015