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Press Release

Navajo Woman from Arizona Pleads Guilty to Federal Firearms and Burglary Charges in New Mexico

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Lisa Benally, 37, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Fort Defiance, Ariz., pled guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to federal firearms and burglary charges.

 

Benally and co-defendant Loren Lloyd Wauneka, 37, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Window Rock, Ariz., were arrested on Jan. 29, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging them with being felons in possession of firearms and burglary. The criminal complaint alleged that Benally and Wauneka committed the crimes on the Navajo Indian Reservation in McKinley County, N.M., on Dec. 1, 2015. According to the criminal complaint, a law enforcement officer encountered Benally, Wauneka and others as they were burglarizing the officer’s residence. During the execution of a search warrant on the vehicle in which Benally and Wauneka were traveling, officers seized a television, jewelry, bags, computer laptops and two firearms belonging to the officer whose home was burgled.

 

Benally and Wauneka were indicted on Feb. 24, 2016, and charged with being felons in possession of firearms and ammunition, possession of stolen firearms, and aggravated burglary on Dec. 1, 2015. According to the indictment, Benally was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because she previously had been convicted of escape, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of dangerous drugs. Wauneka was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because he previously was convicted of unlawful discharge of a firearm and aggravated driving while intoxicated.

 

During today’s proceedings, Benally pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and aggravated burglary. In entering the guilty plea, Benally admitted that on Dec. 1, 2015, she and others drove to and unlawfully entered a residence with the intent to commit theft and stole two firearms and ammunition, which Benally placed into her vehicle, thus making Benally armed during the burglary. Benally further admitted that she was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because of her status as a convicted felon.

 

On March 23, 2017, Wauneka pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and aggravated burglary. In entering the guilty plea, Wauneka also admitted that on Dec. 1, 2015, he entered a residence with the intent to commit theft and stole two firearms and ammunition, which he placed into his vehicle, thus making Wauneka armed during the burglary. Wauneka further admitted that he was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition because of his status as a convicted felon.

 

At sentencing, Benally and Wauneka each face a maximum penalty of ten years in federal prison. Sentencing hearings have yet to be scheduled.

 

This case was investigated by the Crownpoint office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, the McKinley County Sheriff’s Office and the New Mexico State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. Murphy is prosecuting the case.

Updated March 27, 2017

Topics
Firearms Offenses
Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crime