Affidavits: APS vendor paid $950K to 4 entities tied to Stapleton

A Taste of the Caribbean, a business associated with House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque. Agents were serving a search warrant there Wednesday as part of an investigation into Albuquerque Public Schools procurement practices. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Agents on Wednesday serve a search warrant at A Taste of the Caribbean on Wednesday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Four businesses and charities directly connected to state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, received deposits of more than $950,000 from Robotics Management Learning Systems LLC over the past decade, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by the Attorney General’s Office.

The AG’s Office has been investigating the relationship between Robotics, a longtime vendor for Albuquerque Public Schools, and Stapleton, who is employed by APS. It is looking into possible racketeering, money laundering and other criminal offenses.

Payments and allegations outlined in the search warrant affidavit obtained by the Journal show:

♦ The largest amount, $319,122, went to A Taste of the Caribbean, the family’s restaurant managed by her husband and located near the University of New Mexico. From 2014 to December 2020, there were 57 payments from Robotics Learning Systems’ bank account into the restaurant account.

Agents said they observed Stapleton working at the restaurant during their investigation.

She reported her family’s involvement in the restaurant in her financial statement filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State, but listed only Albuquerque Public Schools as a source of income.

♦ S. Williams Associates, a consulting firm, received 58 payments from Robotics for a total of $279,773. Stapleton is identified as the owner. She opened the bank account and was sole signatory on it.

The company isn’t registered with the Secretary of State and is not mentioned in the financial disclosure statements Stapleton filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. The only documents investigators found for S. Williams Associates was a City of Albuquerque business license.

♦ Two nonprofit entities — the Charlie Morrisey Foundation and the Ujima Foundation — connected to Stapleton also received payments from Robotics.

According to the search warrant affidavit, Stapleton opened a bank account in Albuquerque under the name of the Charlie Morrisey Foundation. That account received 40 payments from Robotics totaling $202,105.

Investigators couldn’t find any registration for a Charlie Morrisey Foundation, but Stapleton is listed as the registered agent for the Charlie Morrisey Center for Creative Assistance. She also is listed as secretary and treasurer of the organization.

The president of Robotics, Joseph F. Johnson, is listed as president of the center and Robotics Vice President Patricia Smith as vice president.

The affidavit says there are numerous organizations named after the late African American community leader Charlie Morrisey, but none of the registered entities is named the Charlie Morrisey Foundation.

Stapleton also is the registered agent, and secretary and treasurer of the Ujima Foundation.

Johnson and Smith of Robotics serve as president and vice president, respectively.

The Ujima Foundation received 31 payments totaling $153,385 from Robotics.

More than $100,000 from the foundations was deposited into Stapleton’s personal accounts.

Investigators said they believe another $36,000 from the foundation accounts was sent to the Bank of Nevis, located on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis in the eastern Caribbean.

Both the Charlie Morrisey Center for Creative Assistance and the Ujima Foundation list addresses at the African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall located at the New Mexico Expo grounds.

The façade of the building is inscribed with “Sheryl M. Williams Stapleton African American Performing Arts Center and Exhibit Hall.”

The affidavits include information obtained from bank records through a “compulsory process.”

According to the documents, Robotics had been doing business with the Albuquerque Public Schools District since at least 2008 and had been paid more than $5 million. Deposits into bank accounts connected to Stapleton are tracked back to 2012.

Stapleton focus of kickback probe

Lawmakers to launch Stapleton ethics probe

Lawmaker rose to power at Roundhouse

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