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Former executive director denies role in La Promesa embezzlement case

Kasia Gregorczyk
September 21, 2017 06:02 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- An Albuquerque Public School board member has something to say about a state investigation surrounding her and her daughter. The investigation involves La Promesa Early Learning Center and hundreds of thousands of dollars of the school's money that reportedly ended up in the daughter's bank account.

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Current board member Analee Maestas was La Promesa's executive director, and her daughter Julianne worked there as well. The lawyer for Analee Maestas released a written statement on her behalf Wednesday, basically blaming her daughter entirely for the missing money.

The investigation into La Promesa revealed hundreds of checks that were supposed to go to vendors actually went into an employee's bank account. The bank account belonged to Julianne Maestas, a former assistant business manager at the school.

"At the end of the day, this basically is taking money from kids," State Auditor Tim Keller said. "These are tax dollars that are supposed to go to textbooks, you know, things in the classroom, programs for the kids that instead are going to the manager's personal bank account for personal use."

In the written statement, Analee Maestas takes no responsibility for what happened, and she points the finger at her own daughter. After they left their positions with the school in September 2016, "Dr. Maestas learned, for the first time, that Julieanne had developed a very serious substance abuse problem."

Attempts to enroll her daughter in a treatment program were unsuccessful, the statement said, adding "Dr. Maestas now understands that Julieanne's unresolved substance abuse problem is directly related to the issues highlighted within the State Auditor's Report."

The letter also states, "Dr. Maestas would never jeopardize her reputation or her long career in childhood education by participating in such a scheme."

Up to three people could be facing criminal charges as a result of the investigation.

Maestas' statement in full reads:

The State Auditor’s report made no finding of wrongdoing by Dr. Maestas in its investigation about the diversion of La Promesa’s funds into Julieanne Maestas’ bank account. Until this report was issued, Dr. Maestas had not been aware of the criminal activity alleged in the State Auditor’s report. According to New Mexico’s protocol for charter schools, the Public Education Department audited La Promesa every year with an independent auditor chosen by the Department. Not a single audit over the six years in question identified the specific problem highlighted in the State Auditor’s report. Those auditors were aware that the school employed a business manager to oversee Julieanne’s drafting and issuing the checks in question–– a business manager who was, in turn, supervised by a principal and then the executive director, Dr. Maestas. Neither the auditors, the business manager, nor the principal ever disclosed this problem to Dr. Maestas or anyone else. The State Auditor’s report does not claim that any of Julieanne’s supervisors, including Dr. Maestas, was aware of, or participated in, the purported scheme to embezzle school funds. Dr. Maestas would never jeopardize her reputation or her long career in childhood education by participating in such a scheme.

Last year, after Julieanne left the employment of the school, Dr. Maestas observed that Julieanne became extremely depressed. Concerned for her daughter’s welfare, Dr. Maestas sought medical treatment for Julieanne. Upon her admission to a medical facility, Dr. Maestas learned, for the first time, that Julieanne had developed a very serious substance abuse problem. Dr. Maestas’ attempts to enroll her daughter into a treatment program after that diagnosis were unsuccessful. Dr. Maestas now understands that Julieanne’s unresolved substance abuse problem is directly related to the issues highlighted within the State Auditor’s Report.

No charges have been filed, but auditors have accused the daughter of depositing checks worth more than $475,000 into her personal bank account after signing them over to herself.

Previously, Maestas was forced to step down as the school's executive director after auditors determined she doctored a receipt for reimbursement.

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Kasia Gregorczyk

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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