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NM woman pleads guilty to stealing $400K

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Capitan woman pleaded guilty last week to embezzling $400,000 in federal money meant to reimburse child care centers for meals provided to kids.

Gina McPherson, 50, faces up to 10 years in federal prison after admitting she stole the funds while working as the manager of the day care center for employees’ kids at the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort near Ruidoso.

The resort and the day care center it runs is owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

According to a criminal complaint against her, McPherson tried to deny she stole the money but ultimately admitted to an FBI agent that she took it to pay for her gambling addiction.

“McPherson acknowledged having a gambling problem and stated, ‘I felt like I gave them back everything I took from them … gambling it back,’ referring to gambling losses McPherson incurred at (the resort) and other Native American casinos,” FBI agent Lisa Kite Hill wrote in the complaint.

Hill says in the complaint that McPherson worked as a blackjack dealer at the casino from 2005 to 2010 and she also owned her own off-site child care centers, one in Clovis and one in Lubbock, Texas.

Both of those centers last week denied they were ever owned by McPherson.

As manager of the center at the resort, McPherson drew an initial $45,000 salary, which later increased to $60,000.

And though resort management told the FBI that McPherson was not authorized to enter into contracts on its behalf, the FBI says McPherson enrolled the resort day care center in a program at the state’s Children Youth and Families Department that distributed federal funds to child care centers to pay for kid meals.

Between 2011 and 2016, McPherson had the money distributed monthly to the resort day care center sent to her off-site day care center in Clovis and cashed the checks or deposits herself and did not provide them to the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the actual owner of the day care center at the resort.

No sentencing date had been set at the time of the plea.