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Local BIA employee charged with bribery

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque Bureau of Indian Affairs employee has been charged in a bribery scheme to help steer a construction project on Navajo tribal lands to a Clarkston, Washington, construction company.

The BIA employee, Calandra Charging Eagle, 52, was charged with accepting a bribe from Christopher H. Clemens, 39, on behalf of Clemens’ company, Hamilton’s West LLC, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane, Washington.

Clemens is charged with agreeing in the summer of 2018 to pay a $10,700 debt Charging Eagle owed to the Sandia Resort and Casino, according to the indictment.

The debt was for a “personal event” at the resort and casino that Charging Eagle had held there, according to the indictment.

Charging Eagle was an architect and project manager at the BIA’s Albuquerque office and had access to internal and confidential agency estimates and other information regarding potential contracts, according to the indictment.

The BIA provides funding and oversight for improvement projects on tribal lands and facilities.

In exchange for paying off the debt, Charging Eagle allegedly agreed to use her position to steer BIA contracts to Clemens and his company.

Clemens was already doing work on the Navajo Nation’s Pine Hill School in western New Mexico when he formed a company – Hamilton’s West LLC – to bid on a more than $500,000 project to provide lightning protection improvements to the school building.

According to the indictment, Charging Eagle texted Clemens telling him that his bid should be for no more than $565,000 after Clemens had paid off half of her debt at Sandia Resort and Casino.

The money was described as going for “promotions and pre-bidding estimates,” according to the indictment.

Charging Eagle is charged with providing Clemens and his company with inside information about the project, including internal cost estimates on the project and other confidential BIA information about the procurement.

In a series of texts, recounted in the indictment, Clemens and Charging Eagle discussed how much work was in the pipeline at BIA on which Clemens’ company could post bids.

If found guilty, Charging Eagle faces up to 15 years in federal prison for accepting a bribe, 10 years for one count of theft of government property and five years in prison for conspiracy.

Clemens and his company are each charged with one count of bribery of a public official, one count of theft of government property and one count of conspiracy. Clemens faces the same potential prison sentences as Charging Eagle.

The investigation was conducted by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Interior, which includes the BIA, and investigators from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General.

William D. Hyslop, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said: “The integrity of the federal procurement process is critical to ensuring that public funds are used appropriately and that precious and limited funds are used for improvements of tribal schools and facilities.”

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