Two men arrested on charges of embezzlement after AP audit

An accounts payable audit led to discovery of embezzlement by two men who were involved with a Native American development company in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Bruce Sanchez and Thomas Keesing were arrested and charged with stealing more than $3 million from the Indian Pueblo Federal Development Corporation (IPFDC). They have also both been indicted by a federal grand jury. Sanchez served as the president and CEO of the IPFDC, and Keesing was a commercial real estate developer for New Mexico Real Estate Inc., the business working on projects for the corporation.

Prosecutors allege that the men conducted an illegal scheme from 2003 to 2009 in which Sanchez would make inflated payments from IPFDC's accounts to Keesing's real estate firm. The funds totaled $3.8 million, with the fraudulent amount being $3.6 million . In turn, Keesing gave $1.7 million to Sanchez.

The AP audit report revealed that Sanchez signed off on 96 different payments to Keesing between 2004 and 2008, which ranged from $4,000 to $200,000. As a kickback, Keesing paid $134,00 to Sanchez over 22 payments. Additional investigation revealed evidence of Keesing making fraudulent payments to a company owned by Sanchez, called TSACHU LLC. The amount totaled to $1.5 million.

Sanchez also served as the governor for Santa Ana Pueblo, one of 19 pueblos in the state. He joined the IPFDC in 2003. The organization was formed in 1993 to redevelop land that once belonged to the Albuquerque Indian School. Sanchez is facing additional charges of income tax evasion, as he did not report the embezzled funds on his tax returns during the scheme.

Both men face up to five years in prison each for the charges of embezzlement, as well as $250,000 fine. Sanchez could be sentenced to more time, as the three counts of evasion and one charge of failure to file tax return each carry five years.

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