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Former Sandia Labs employee indicted on fraud, money laundering charges

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque woman was arrested Tuesday on charges she used her position at Sandia National Laboratories to secure a $2.3 million contract for a moving company she had fraudulently created using names of her relatives.

Carla Sena, 55, was arrested in Santa Rosa after a federal grand jury indicted her on one count of major fraud against the United States, three counts of wire fraud and seven counts of money laundering.

Federal prosecutors say Sena worked from 2006 to 2017 as a procurement employee responsible for managing and awarding contracts to companies supplying services and materials to the federal lab.

From this position, she used inside information to develop the lowest – and therefore the winning – bid for a contract for moving services in late 2010, prosecutors say.

That bid was awarded to a company she created eight days before the bid due date using a mailbox rented in her daughter’s name and a bank account shared with her then-husband, according to the indictment.

Authorities say she used her position to disqualify another bidding company because it had not included sufficient customer references, a bid requirement her manufactured company met – although her company never existed.

It is not clear from the indictment whether the moving services were completed or who completed them, and a federal Department of Justice spokeswoman said only, “The indictment does not make any allegations that the work was not completed.”

After securing the bid, Sena falsified signatures of family members and associates to deposit payments, including some to her father’s company, for which she managed finances. The indictment does not name Sena’s father or his business.

All the while, Sena filled out conflict-of-interest disclosure forms, on which she did not mention her effort to award the contract to the company she created.

If convicted, she could face years in prison, but how many wasn’t clear Wednesday, and the forfeiture of nearly $2.3 million, possibly including more than $600,000 deposited in association with her father’s businesses.

It is not clear whether others could face charges in connection with the case, but the indictment indicates Sena’s father was unaware of the fraudulent activity.

It is also not clear in the indictment how investigators built their case against Sena.

She retired from Sandia in 2017, spokeswoman Sue Holmes said Wednesday. Holmes said that the issue “was discovered internally” and that the labs cooperated fully with authorities.

Holmes said the labs employ 115 procurement staffers, and the indictment says that Sena was one of only three employees authorized to process bids through high levels of the approval process.

Sena’s family declined to comment when reached in Santa Rosa on Wednesday afternoon. Her attorney, Ahmad Assed, did not return a call for comment Wednesday afternoon.