APS hit with federal grand jury subpoena on Stapleton

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A federal grand jury subpoena was served on Albuquerque Public Schools this week seeking records of state then-House Majority Floor Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, in what apparently is a parallel investigation to the racketeering, fraud and kickback investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office.

The subpoena asks APS for many of the same records the state Attorney General’s Office seized via search warrants in their investigation involving Stapleton and Robotics Management Learning Systems LLC.

According to the state search warrants, businesses and charities owned by or connected to Stapleton received more than $950,000 in payments from Robotics.

Federal agents – including an Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator, right – were at the scene early Wednesday as New Mexico Attorney General’s Office investigators served a search warrant at the home of Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

State investigators were unaware of the federal interest in Stapleton until recently. The federal investigation, the Journal has learned, began almost 18 months ago and focused on misuse of federal grant money.

Stapleton was put on administrative leave from her $78,673-a-year job at APS as director of Career and Technical Education this week by Superintendent Scott Elder, as were 11 other employees involved with that department.

Stapleton, who announced Friday she was resigning from the House, was suspended after state search warrants were served Wednesday on her home, business, her office at APS and the state Legislature.

The federal investigation, which involves the FBI and the criminal division of the Internal Revenue Service, focuses on money APS received through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. Grants from that federal program paid, in part, for the software and training provided to APS by Robotics.

The subpoena asks for “any and all correspondence, to include emails, between Sheryl Williams Stapleton and APS and its employees regarding Robotics Managment Learning Systems LLC.”

It also asks for all policy guidance and procedures APS uses for requesting, spending and accounting for federal grant funding, along with travel vouchers, evaluations, and earning and leave statements, among other documents.

Robotics supplied software that was supposed to provide students with multiple choice online quizzes and develop teacher training materials integrating math and science into the Career and Training Education programs that Stapleton oversaw. Robotics was paid $5.3 million by APS between 2006 and 2021.

In 2018, the APS procurement office asked Robotics for a report on the number of students using the Robotics quizzes and received a spreadsheet showing 691 “unique users” out of almost 80,000 students in the APS system. The procurement office found that the spreadsheet was created by Stapleton’s office, not Robotics.

APS has until Aug. 24 to turn over the records either to the FBI or in person to the federal grand jury.

Federal agents were present Wednesday morning when investigators from the Attorney General’s Office served search warrants on APS, Stapleton’s home and the family’s restaurant, A Taste of the Caribbean.

The FBI and U.S. attorney had no comment and are prohibited from discussing matters pending before a federal grand jury.

Federal agents were also in contact with the Washington, D.C.-based Robotics and its owners this week, the Journal has learned.

The Journal has been unable to contact anyone at Robotics.

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