Created: November 18, 2020 10:20 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A newly released report from the state auditor paints a picture of fraud, forgery, embezzlement and possible kickbacks involving about $335,000 in questionable spending connected to the Mora Volunteer Fire Department.
"We have over $100,000 worth of Fire Protection Fund monies that are either unaccounted for or were misspent and it's just completely unacceptable," said State Auditor Brian Colón. "These funds were clearly for public safety purposes. When those are misdirected, misappropriated, misused or unaccounted for -- that provides additional risk to these communities."
The report claims the former fire chief's daughter authorized using money intended to help fight fires to over-pay family members, purchase personal boots, coats and jewelry. There was even a sauna and spa purchased for the firehouse.
In January 2019, the 4 Investigates team confronted the former fire chief Dennis Romero after he was fired.
4 Investigator Nathan O'Neal: Do you believe that all the expenses... the charges that were made on behalf of this department were legitimate?
Former Mora Fire Chief Dennis Romero: Yes... I wouldn't do them otherwise.
The state's audit also points to $1,500 in luxury flooring and financial records believed to be fabricated. The scope of the audit examined five years of financial records.
"Regardless of who commits the waste, fraud or abuse, we will hold them accountable," said State Auditor Colón.
To be clear—no one has been charged with any crime so far. However, the case has since been forwarded to state police and to the district attorney to consider possible criminal charges.
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