Trial set for a former New Mexico lawmaker accused of racketeering and money laundering
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A corruption trial for a former high-ranking Democratic state legislator and Albuquerque public school administrator has been scheduled for January.
Court records show the trial of Sheryl Williams Stapleton will begin Jan. 2, 2024. She is charged with 28 counts, including racketeering, money laundering, fraud, bribery and other allegations which became public in 2021.
The state attorney general’s office told the Santa Fe New Mexican that delays to the trial have been due to changes in judge assignments, as three judges have rescued themselves from the case. Defense attorneys and prosecutors also sought more time to review documents related to the case.
Williams Stapleton is accused of diverting money meant for vocational education at Albuquerque Public Schools to businesses and charities in which she had an interest. She was also accused of using her legislative position for personal benefit.
Williams Stapleton has denied wrongdoing.
She resigned from the Legislature in July 2021 and was fired soon after by the school district. Williams Stapleton’s attorney, Ahmad Assed, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
The charges raised questions about how the state’s largest school district was handling federal money. State officials demanded the district use a third-party auditor and train staff on a new set of fraud and waste safeguards.
Authorities spent months investigating Williams Stapleton’s activities at the school district after concerns were raised that she allegedly had been channeling money to personal or business-related accounts through a kickback scheme.
The investigation primarily focused on her relationship with Washington, D.C.-based Robotics Management Learning System LLC, which had been providing online learning materials to the district.
An investigation found Robotics Management listed only a post office box in Albuquerque and was not registered to do business in New Mexico.
State investigators searched Williams Stapleton’s home and office and subpoenaed records from the school district. Federal investigators later joined the case, with FBI agents seizing about $3 million they said was connected with the case.