I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Gallegos indicted on fraud, embezzlement and money laundering
Former Region III Housing Authority Director Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos is facing a number of felony charges including fraud, embezzlement and money laundering, with at least some of the charges related to a $300,000 loan Region III made to Gallegos in 2005.
That’s according to the indictments against the four defendants in the case that were publicly released earlier today.
Gallegos, a former state lawmaker from Clovis, is charged in two separate indictments with a total of 12 felony counts including fraud, embezzlement, the fraudulent sale of securities and money laundering. He faces a maximum of 72.5 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Three other defendants are facing felony charges in the case. Dennis M. Kennedy, the former Region III accountant, is facing the same charges and potential prison time as Gallegos.
Robert Strumor, the former Region III bond attorney, is facing charges including fraud and money laundering. He faces a maximum of 31.5 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Former Region III employee David N. Hernandez is facing one charge of tampering with evidence, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 18 months.
The scandal first captured headlines in 2006 when Region III defaulted on $5 million in bonds it owed the state. The State Investment Council (SIC) and state auditor have found widespread misuse of the bond money, which was supposed to be spent on affordable housing.
The indictments don’t include much information about what prosecutors allege happened, but do indicate that many of the charges relate to the $300,000 loan. According to the SIC’s report on its investigation, Region III purchased 30 lots in Las Cruces on Oct. 8, 2004 for $138,678.
But on Jan. 10, 2005, Region III loaned its construction company, Housing Enterprises, Inc., $300,000 and referenced the purchase of the lots in Las Cruces, though they had already been paid for. Housing Enterprises then sent the money to U.S. Title for the purchase of the Las Cruces properties. The title company then wrote a check to “V. Gallegos” for $300,000.
The next day, the HEI board approved the loan, the SIC report states, citing minutes of a meeting that “cryptically state that just prior to adjournment, ‘Mr. Gallegos discussed a loan agreement on personal property which was approved by the board.’”
Gallegos repaid the loan, with 6.25 percent interest, on July 31, 2006, the day before he resigned.