Navajo Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Arson Charge
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of Federal Initiative to Address the Epidemic Incidence of Violence Against Native Women
ALBUQUERQUE – Derek C. Toledo, 28, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Sanostee, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to an arson charge under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Toledo was arrested in May 2015, on a criminal complaint charging him with arson and was indicted on that same charge on June 9, 2015. According to court filings, Toledo set fire to the residence of a Navajo woman and her three children on May 9, 2015, on the Navajo Indian Reservation in San Juan County, N.M., following an argument.
During today’s proceedings, Toledo pled guilty to the indictment and admitted that on May 9, 2015, he maliciously set fire to the residence of his former girlfriend and her two children. Toledo admitted using a hand lighter to ignite charcoal lighter fluid he had sprayed inside the home and onto flammable items he had thrown on the floor.
At sentencing, Toledo faces a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison. Toledo is in custody pending a sentencing hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Farmington office of the FBI and the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney Niki Tapia-Brito is prosecuting the case.
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.