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DA’s office has Garcia case; parents, alumni won’t pursue charges

Ron Garcia, right, shown talking to Albuquerque High player Jude Tapia in 2019, has not been charged with a crime in the possible mishandling of funds, but an investigation of his actions has reached the district attorney’s office. (Greg Sorber/Journal file)

The Albuquerque Public Schools investigative report into former Albuquerque High boys basketball coach Ron Garcia’s possible mishandling of money has reached the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office, the Journal has learned.

A spokeswoman for the DA’s office said Thursday that Garcia’s case will be reviewed for viability “and if there is sufficient evidence we’ll move forward with filing charges,” Brandale Mills-Cox said.

The report said Garcia, 64, procured $2,240 from AHS basketball players to purchase basketball shoes last season. Garcia, however, already had received $3,362 for the same thing from the school’s alumni association through former head coach, Hall of Famer Jim Hulsman. Hulsman said he regularly contributes money for equipment to the program he coached for so many years.

According to the AHS Alumni Association, Garcia has since made full restitution – $3,362.42 – to the association, which said it is satisfied, considers the matter closed and chose not to press charges against Garcia.

Parents of AHS players didn’t want to proceed with a prosecution of Garcia, either, according to the findings in the APS report.

The report showed up at the DA’s office last Friday, Mills-Cox said. That was the same day the Journal first reported that APS police had looked into a possible mishandling of funds by Garcia.

That APS police report, obtained by the Journal through the DA’s office, described the investigation conducted earlier this year.

The report includes an email APS’ human resources department sent to APS police in early May asking them to investigate Garcia who was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Garcia earlier this month announced he was retiring as the Bulldogs’ coach after 15 seasons. He twice has been asked directly about the report by the Journal, but did not respond. He did not return a text message seeking comment on Thursday.

APS police began looking into the matter in mid-May. The resulting report summarizes that Garcia used player shoe money to instead purchase shirts for “supporters” of the program, and also for shoes for two people who didn’t play for AHS, incuding Garcia’s grandson.

The report says the alumni association discovered there was a problem when the parent of a player mentioned that players were being asked to pay $80 apiece to Garcia for basketball shoes. AHS athletic director Doug Dorame told APS police that he didn’t know Garcia was asking players for shoe money, “especially since the shoes were a gift from the AHS Alumni Association,” the report reads.

The APS police report included a list of embezzlement statutes in New Mexico, with a notation next to the paragraph that indicates that Garcia could have been charged with a fourth-degree felony.

The report includes two letters, from AHS Alumni Association treasurer Stella Lujan, addressed to Garcia.

“… (I)t was our understanding and coach Hulsman’s understanding that his basketball fund purchased the basketball shoes for the basketball players. It has come to our attention that the players had to pay for their own basketball shoes,” a letter dated Feb. 3 says.

AHS principal Ryan Homistek told APS police that any money collected for activities or sports must be deposited into the school’s activities fund, and that the money must be receipted to the person who the money was collected from. Homistek told police that there were no documented receipts or deposits into the school’s activities account that accounted for the money Garcia collected from the students, the report says.

A second letter from Lujan to Garcia, this one dated March 31, says that Garcia never submitted a purchase order for the aforementioned shirts, and the absence of an order was not in compiance “with the donor’s intent.” It asks Garcia to repay the basketball fund $1,731.95, which Lujan’s letter says “is the difference between what we paid for the shoes ($3,362.42) and the amount you previously returned ($1,630.47).”

Garcia did eventually repay the additional $1,731, although the report says he first asked Homistek to cover the cost but was denied, with Homistek saying it was Garcia’s problem to solve and not the school’s, according to the APS police report.

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