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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Zuni Pueblo Man Pleads Guilty to Child Sexual Abuse Charges

Prosecution Brought Under Project Safe Childhood; Defendant Faces 15 to 20 Year Prison Sentence

ALBUQUERQUE – Ernest Bewanika, 62, an enrolled member and resident of Zuni Pueblo, N.M., pled guilty yesterday afternoon in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to abusive sexual contact of a minor charges.  Bewanika’s plea agreement recommends a prison sentence within the range of 180 to 240 months followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.  Bewanika also will be required to register as a sex offender.

Bewanika was arrested on April 3, 2018, on a two-count indictment charging him with sexually abusing a child under the age of 12 years on two occasions; the first time between Nov. 2014 and Nov. 2015, and the second time between Nov. 2015 and Jan. 2016.  According to the indictment, Bewanika committed the offenses on the Zuni Pueblo in McKinley County, N.M.

During yesterday’s proceedings, Bewanika pled guilty to a felony information charging him with two counts of abusive sexual contact.  In entering the guilty plea, Bewanika admitted that he engaged in sexual contact with the victim between Nov. 6, 2014 and Nov. 5, 2015, when the victim was seven-years-old.  Bewanika further admitted that he engaged in sexual contact with the same victim between Nov. 6, 2015 and Jan. 31, 2016, when the victim was eight-years-old.  Bewanika remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Gallup office of the FBI and the Zuni Pueblo Tribal Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisa Dimas is prosecuting the case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

Indian Country Law and Justice
Project Safe Childhood
Updated September 26, 2018