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Around New Mexico

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Not-Guilty Plea in Embezzling

A Jal man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges alleging that he defrauded two New Mexico businesses of more than $500,000 while he worked for the owners from 2010 to 2012, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales’ office announced.

Prosecutors allege that Roger L. Baeza, 31, defrauded Lea Energy Services LLC and Fulfer Oil & Cattle Company LLC while he worked as an in-house accountant for the two Jal businesses.

Baeza allegedly forged 78 checks and used a credit card drawn on accounts owned by the businesses from June 2010 to February 2012, according to a written statement issued Tuesday by Gonzales’ office. He also used an employer’s identification to unlawfully withdraw money from an account, it said.

A federal grand jury indicted on 78 counts of securities fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of access device fraud.

Male Wolf May Be Released

LAS CRUCES — The first release of a captive-born Mexican gray wolf in four years could occur soon if wildlife officials determine there is an available mate for the lobo in a targeted pack.

The adult male wolf, designated M1133, will be released in mid-January in the Apache National Forest of east-central Arizona if a population survey finds that a female wolf from the Bluestem pack has not yet found a mate in the wild. The mate of the Bluestem pack alpha female was illegally shot last summer.

According to the rules of the wolf recovery program overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, captive-bred wolves can be released for the first time only in a designated portion of Arizona, known as the primary recovery zone. Arizona game commission members have said they will not support wolf releases, other than those to replace illegally killed lobos, until the completion of a revised wolf recovery plan.

The release of a single male wolf was approved Dec. 11 by Benjamin Tuggle, Southwestern regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ranchers Lose Water Appeal

The New Mexico Court of Appeals has dismissed a complaint filed by a statewide ranchers group that sought to stay a sweeping water protection measure.

The “outstanding waters” designation guarantees special protection for hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, dozens of lakes and acres of wetlands in federal wilderness areas across the state. The designation prohibits any activities that would degrade water quality.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association had challenged the process by which the designation was proposed by the state, negotiated and eventually approved by the Water Quality Control Commission in 2010.

The group was concerned that the designation was too broad and could result in lawsuits over grazing on public lands.

The court dismissed the ranchers’ complaint, saying they failed to show how they would be adversely affected.

Fumes Blamed for Death

LAS CRUCES — Authorities say melting plastic appears to be the source of toxic fumes that caused the death of a Las Cruces woman.

Las Cruces police say 41-year-old Penny Padilla was found dead in her apartment Thursday night.

Police and city fire investigators said they later discovered a toaster and pans inside the kitchen’s oven.

Plastic handles from the pans and parts of the toaster were found melted inside the electric oven.

Authorities say Padilla apparently turned the stove on to prepare a meal, but failed to remove the plastic items from the oven.

The New Mexico Medical Investigator’s Office says it has determined that Padilla died as a result of smoke inhalation.

Embezzler Gets 15 Months

A Los Lunas woman has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for embezzling money from Presbyterian Healthcare Services and an employee goodwill program.

Prosecutors say a federal judge handed down the sentence to 35-year-old Jolene Calderon on Tuesday. She was also ordered to pay $86,000 in restitution.

Calderon was indicted in February on 82 counts of bank fraud and five counts of embezzlement. She ended up pleading guilty to two counts as part of a plea agreement.

Courthouse Funding Sought

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Mora County officials say they’ll be taking a different approach as they try again for state funding to resume work on the county’s uncompleted courthouse complex.

The complex in Mora remains an empty shell because the county has been unable to secure funding to finish it, the Las Vegas Optic reported.

The county sought $4 million from the Legislature last year to complete the courthouse’s first floor. The Legislature allocated $1.5 million for the complex, but Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the amount because it would have only partly funded the project.

County officials said they will ask the Legislature for $2.2 million while tapping other sources that could include seeking a $1.6 million loan from the New Mexico Finance Authority, said Paula Garcia, chairwoman of the Mora County Commission.

Ibex Hunting Licenses Sold

SANTA FE — The Game and Fish Department is making available licenses to hunt ibex in the Florida Mountains in southern New Mexico to thin populations of the big game animal.

The department said licenses can be purchased online or at agency offices starting today. Hunters are eligible if they didn’t have a 2012-13 ibex hunting license.

The licenses cost $111 for a New Mexico resident and $1,630 for nonresidents.

Hunting will be allowed for female or immature ibex from Feb. 21 through March 31 until 125 animals are killed.

The department said any hunter who kills two ibexes and has that verified by a conservation officer will become eligible for a drawing for a license to hunt ibex with a rifle in the spring of 2014.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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