ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque School Board member is accused of stealing money from the charter school she ran. Now, the State Auditor says her daughter was in on it too, and for a lot more money than initially thought.
New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller has been auditing La Promesa Early Learning Center and released what his office found.
“After several months of review and investigation, we found almost half a million dollars that was likely embezzled,” said Keller.
KRQE News 13 On Special Assignment first told you last year the school’s former Executive Director, Analee Maestas, was caught using school money to pay for carpet cleaning at her home. In May, another tip came into the State Auditor’s office.
In one case, a vendor claimed the school never paid them $7,128.
“Vendors were being charged taxes for money that they were paid and they would call and say, well we never got a check,” said Keller.
Keller says Julieanne Maestas, the school’s business manager and Analee’s daughter, was signing checks made out to vendors, then pocketing the school’s money.
“It turns out those checks were going into the business manager’s personal account,” said Keller.
After reviewing bank statements and school records, the State Auditor’s office found more than $400,000 was missing.
Ultimately, Keller says all that money should have gone to the students at La Promesa.
“These are dollars that can be used anywhere, from hiring instructional folks in programming, to athletic equipment or textbooks,” said Keller.
While Keller says he’s not sure if the mother-daughter duo were scheming together, he says it’s hard to believe Maestas didn’t know.
“Her mom was her boss, and the signer of all these checks,” said Keller.
Maestas and her daughter were both fired. Analee Maestas is still an APS Board Member. It would take recall to remove her.
The State Audit report also found Julieanne Maestas’ boyfriend took more than $170,000 from the school. The District Attorney will decide if they will face any charges.
The Public Education Department released the following statement Tuesday in response to the auditor’s findings:
The PED has been aware of these concerns and at all appropriate points took steps to ensure that the State Auditor’s Office and law enforcement officials were made aware of them. The PED takes these financial mismanagement issues very seriously and – prior to the release of this report – had taken appropriate steps that align with the recommendations regarding licensure, training, and oversight of business managers. As the PED’s previous recommendations and actions reflect, charter schools must be held accountable for their financial, as well as academic and organizational, performance. Our students and taxpayers deserve better and we are confident those responsible for any illegal or unethical actions will face the appropriate consequences. – Kida Alikhani, PED spokesperson