RIO RANCHO, NM (KRQE) – Rio Rancho police are investigating a woman they say has duped multiple small, local businesses from four counties – Bernalillo, Valencia, Sandoval and Cibola. Police say they woman tells business owners she’s a grant writer, but police say none of her grant applications have actually been documented or verified.
We spoke to one small business owner who says she fell for it. Now, she’s trying to warn others.
Shirley Fite bought her first Bernalillo County business 12 years ago. Since then, she’s acquired two more. Last summer, Fite was looking for a way to buy new equipment for her businesses when she got a tip from a friend.
“He said, ‘I have been awarded a grant,’ and I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘yes. There’s money available for small businesses,’ ” explains Fite.
Fite says she wasted no time in contacting the grant writer to see if she qualified for government money, too.
“She gave us all the questions, all the paperwork to do and we did it, which was very time consuming,” says Fite.
Fite forked over $1,000 for her three businesses. Two months later, she was told she had been approved for $225,000 for two of her businesses and “we received $100,000 for Einstein Bagels on Osuna and Jefferson,” Fite says.
“We were so thrilled to have this money so we could buy things we needed for our businesses that we didn’t even, we didn’t question it,” explains Fite.
Fite signed a contract and gave the woman her social security number and checking account numbers. She was told the money would be deposited into her account 14 business days after March 1. Yet, the day came and went.
“We all got up on March 20th and checked the bank account and there’s no money,” recalls Fite.
Fite noticed other red flags, but it wasn’t until she hear about the police’s investigation that she knew for sure she had been duped.
“That’s what I’m really angry about is that she defrauded us, not just the $500, the time that we spent,” Fite says.
Now, Fite’s determined to warn others of the scheme and do everything in her power to bring this woman to justice.
“I will do anything it takes. I don’t care how much time it takes. I will do what it takes to stop this, this fraud,” says Fite.
Fite says she’s working with detectives and plans to file a police report Monday. Rio Rancho Police are asking anyone else who may have been a victim to contact Detective Tim Frazer at 505-891-5935.
Rio Rancho Police say they are looking into someone but will not release her name at this time.