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Press Release

Zuni Pueblo Man Sentenced for Sexually Abusing a Child

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of Project Safe Childhood

ALBUQUERQUE – Vernon Niiha, 54, a member of Zuni Pueblo who resides in Blackrock, N.M., was sentenced this morning in Albuquerque, N.M., to 36 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his abusive sexual contact conviction.  Niiha will also be required to register as a sex offender.

Niiha was arrested in Aug. 2013, on an indictment charging him with sexually abusing a child under the age of 12 years.  According to the indictment, Niiha committed the crime at some time between March 2002 and March 2003, in Zuni Pueblo in McKinley County, N.M.

On Feb. 25, 2015, Niiha entered a guilty plea to a felony information charging him with abusive sexual contact, and admitted sexually abusing the victim.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and Zuni Pueblo Tribal Police Department, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle T. Nayback.

The case was filed 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

Updated September 8, 2015