Three Men Arraigned on Federal Theft Charges Arising Out of Scheme to Defraud Bureau of Indian Education
Employees Allegedly Misused Government-Issued Credit Cards to Purchase Thousands of Dollars of Goods and Services for Personal Use
ALBUQUERQUE – Three men were arraigned this morning in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., on an indictment charging them with conspiring to defraud the United States by using credit cards issued by their employer, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), to purchase thousands of dollars of goods and services for their personal use between Aug. 2013 and Dec. 2016. Albuquerque residents Simon Nunez, Jr., 67, and David M. Parrish, 63, and Leland Martinez, 56, of Los Lunas, N.M., entered not guilty pleas during this morning’s proceedings, and were released under pretrial supervision pending trial, which has yet to be scheduled.
The nine-count indictment, which was filed on July 27, 2018, charges the defendants with conspiracy and theft from the United States. It also charges Nunez with making false statements to federal investigators. It alleges that the defendants committed the offenses between Aug. 2013 and Dec. 2016, in New Mexico. Parrish and Nunez voluntarily retired from BIE in Dec. 2016 when the investigation into the case was initiated, and Martinez was placed on administrative leave.
According to the indictment, BIE is a sub-department of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Parrish and Martinez were BIE employees authorized to make purchases for BIE using government-issued credit cards, who were supervised by Nunez, a BIE supervisory employee with the authority to approve or deny purchases made by Parrish and Martinez and who maintained records listing the justifications for the use of the government funds to make purchases.
Count 1 of the indictment, the conspiracy count, alleges that Nunez, Parrish and Martinez engaged in a scheme to misuse their government-issued credit cards for their personal use and the use of family members, and to misrepresent those purchases as authorized government purchases. Counts 2 through 8 of the indictment allege that from Aug. 2013 through Oct. 2016, the defendants embezzled more than $1000 from the United States. During that period, the defendants allegedly used government funds to purchase storage sheds, tarps, a chainsaw, hot water heaters, a brush mower, two laptops, clothing and shoes, tools, earphones, and other personal items and allegedly created false BIE records to justify the use of government funds to make those purchases. Count 9 of the indictment charges Nunez with making false statements to federal investigators of the DOI Office of Inspector General on Dec. 22, 2016.
If convicted of the charges in the indictment, the defendants each face a maximum statutory penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, and a maximum statutory penalty of ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the theft of government funds charges. Nunez faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the false statement charge. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Mysliwiec.