4 Investigates: How Albuquerque’s Violence Intervention Program let a sex offender in schools 

4 Investigates: How Albuquerque’s Violence Intervention Program let a sex offender in schools

4 Investigates uncovered a major oversight that led the city to let a man convicted of sex offenses involving a teen into APS schools a half-dozen times from October through November last year.

4 Investigates uncovered a major oversight that led the city to let a man convicted of sex offenses involving a teen into APS schools a half-dozen times from October through November last year. 

Joe “JD” Medina 

The FBI arrested Joe Medina in 2015 for kidnapping a 16-year-old girl and fleeing New Mexico. Medina was 37 years old when the FBI caught up with him and the girl on a bus in Indianapolis. The federal investigation revealed violent behavior. Medina had previously threatened to kill the girl by holding a pistol to her neck.

On the day of the abduction, investigators said he threatened to kill the girl’s mother if the 16-year-old girl did not leave with him. Medina took the girl to his mother’s house in Corrales where, “he engaged in sexual activity with her,” and the girl “recalled that people came to the house in Corrales and knocked on the door, calling out Jane Doe’s name. Medina held a stuffed animal over Jane Doe’s face to keep her from calling to the people outside.” 

In 2017, Medina pleaded guilty to coercion and enticement in federal court. He admitted to enticing the 16-year-old to leave the state with the intention of having sex with her. The court sentenced him to eight years in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release. Despite a plea agreement stating he’d have to register as a sex offender, New Mexico’s equivalent state law only requires sex offender registration if the victim is under the age of 16. 

For 15 years Medina is required to:  

  • Possess no sexual material 
  • No contact with children under 18 years old (With exceptions for his minor child) 
  • No volunteering where children are supervised 
  • Restricted from occupation with access to children 
  • No loitering within 100 feet of schoolyards 

Bureau of Prison records show Medina got out of prison in 2022. He was hired by the city of Albuquerque as a Violence Intervention Program contractor on Oct. 1, 2023. A spokesperson in the mayor’s office said he was hired “to provide outreach to individuals who have been directly impacted by a narcotic overdose.” 

Six days after he was hired, records show Medina went into his first APS school. In February, the city fired him after federal probation and parole alerted his bosses. 

Federal probation and parole tells 4 Investigates Medina has a new job where kids are not at risk. 

Joe Medina presenting as part of the Violence Intervention Program to a classroom in Mark Armijo Charter School with his mugshot behind him.

Albuquerque’s Violence Intervention Program 

“This is in my lane,” Mayor Tim Keller said to the Albuquerque Public School Board in December. “I’m here because I will deliver on this. And I don’t need anything from council or county commission to do that. So, that’s why you can hold me accountable for this program.” 

KOB 4 has reported extensively on the early signs of success for the Violence Intervention Program and on the additional funding to expand it. 

The APS Board questioned Keller about how the school-based VIP would roll out into more high schools back in December when he asked the district for support to seek additional funding. 

“We believe in this, and the team is set up to scale,” Keller said to the APS Board in December. “I have full faith in them and they have full faith in this concept of expansion.” 

Mariela Ruiz-Angel was running that team as director of Albuquerque’s Community Safety Department, which oversees the Violence Intervention Program. 

“This type of work does better when it has good supervision,” Ruiz-Angel said of the Violence Intervention Program. 

Ruiz-Angel said she signed the contracts and relied on the chain of command below her to make recommendations on which peer-support workers with “lived experience” to hire. 

City contractors are required to undergo background checks if “that person may be alone with a child within the scope of the performance of the contract,” according to city code. 

Ruiz-Angel said because Medina was hired to work with adults, he never had a background check. 

The city has a dedicated “School-based VIP” where workers do undergo background checks. However, Ruiz-Angel said there was no framework in place to verify other members of the VIP would be allowed to go into schools. 

An example of Medina’s billable work log showing him inside schools and subsequently doing “follow up with participants.”

4 Investigates asked the city for Medina’s billable work log, which places him inside Freedom High School, Ernie Pyle Middle School, James Monroe Middle School, Mark Armijo Charter School, Del Norte High School, Job Corps Assembly and Washington Middle School between October and November. On more than one occasion following an assembly he billed time for what he termed “follow up with participants.” 

Another billable work log showing when he went to Del Norte High and in the following days conducted “home visits with participants.”

4 Investigates asked what Ruiz-Angel would say to the parents of the kids Medina interacted with at APS schools. 

“I do think that it’s important to remember that one, Joe was not by himself,” Ruiz-Angel said. “I think that it’s important to remember that we are building something that I think parents who have had good experiences with our peer-support workers will tell you themselves. This has worked really well for their kids.” 

4 Investigates also pulled the APS visitor log-in records to verify Medina did not enter schools alone. He was with other VIP workers including two higher-ranking city VIP employees. VIP Special Project Manager Serena Fazio and VIP Social Services Program Manager Angel Garcia accompanied Medina. 

How will the city ensure this doesn’t happen again? 

“We’ve been contemplating background checks,” Ruiz-Angel said. “We know that they’re not going to pass them, but it would give us a perspective on what we’re working with and who’s coming in to work with us.” 

Ruiz-Angel was promoted to associate chief administrative officer one month after Medina was fired. She’s set to make $174,000 annually. 

The ACS director job is still open, and pays a bit less, at $167,918 annually. 

‘No responsive records’ 

New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act allows anyone to request government correspondence to give the public an idea of how decisions are made behind closed doors. 

4 Investigates requested emails from former Albuquerque Community Safety Director Mariela Angel-Ruiz, Deputy Director of VIP Jeffery Bustamante, VIP Special Project Manager Serena Fazio, VIP Social Services Program Manager Angel Garcia, and Joe Medina containing the keywords: “JD,” “Medina,” “J.D.,” “Joe,” “School,” “Schools,” “Albuquerque High,” “Del Norte,” “RFK,” “Robert F Kennedy,” “Federal,” “Restrictions,” “Restricted,” “Kids,” “Minors,” “Children,” between the months Medina was hired and the months he was going into APS schools. 

Even though Medina was not hired as part of the school-based VIP and somehow made his way into more than a half-dozen schools, the city clerk’s office said there were no emails with any of the above keywords between the named city employees during the time Medina was hired and working in those APS schools. 

‘No comment’ from Albuquerque Public Schools 

In an email to Albuquerque Public School spokesperson Monica Armenta, 4 Investigates asked: How does APS partner with the city on programs to bring contractors into schools? Was APS aware city contractors don’t go through background checks? And assuming APS had no prior knowledge of this, will any action be taken going forward to ensure adults with restrictions pertaining to kids stay out of schools? 

Armenta said APS had no comment.