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Three tied to MLK Commission are indicted

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Three people who worked directly for or provided services to the Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission were named in multi-count indictments handed up Friday. Among the charges are embezzlement, fraud, larceny, conspiracy and racketeering.

Those charged were the former executive director of the commission, Kimberly Greene; the organization’s former financial auditor, Cheryl Yazzie; and Charles Countee, the executive director of eRead, a nonprofit that offers education and technology programs and that held and distributed funds on behalf of the commission.

According to the indictments, Greene falsified documents to steal money allocated to the commission by the state, Yazzie knew of and signed off on false vouchers, and Countee, who held some funds for the MLK Commission, facilitated the transfer of money.

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According to separate indictments, all three “did by word or actions convert to his/her own use” funds belonging to the MLK State Commission, or in the case of Countee, MLK Commission funds that were held in an eRead bank account. The funds “had a market value of over $2,500, but not more than $20,000.”

The indictments come nearly two years after the state Attorney General’s Office served search warrants on the offices of the commission and confiscated computers, flash drives, memory cards, external hard drives, cellphones and a host of handwritten and printed financial documents. Among those were bank invoices and statements, expenditure documents, paycheck and payroll reports, lease agreements, budget and legislative appropriation requests, audit paperwork and travel and employee records.

The search warrants revealed that investigators believed Greene may have funneled $16,000 in state money to herself and forged an invoice from eRead for more than $51,700.

AG’s Office spokesman James Hallinan declined further comment, saying only “now that these defendants have been indicted, the Office of the Attorney General is focused on preparing this case for trial.”

Attempts to reach Greene, Yazzie and Countee on Friday for comment were unsuccessful.

The Journal reported in early February 2016 that the MLK State Commission’s board of directors removed Greene from her position.

Yazzie also no longer works for the commission, said current executive director Leonard Waites, who took control of the organization in July 2016.

He added that the commission no longer has a relationship with Countee and eRead.

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“We’ve had this cloud hanging over us since I’ve taken over, and I am glad it’s finally coming to a close and justice will prevail,” Waites said Friday. “I appreciate people understanding that there is a new regime and we’re moving forward. The commission is in good shape and we’re doing well.”

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