Former Catron Co. sheriff charged with alleged misuse of federal wildfire relief funds

NEW MEXICO — A former Catron County sheriff faces 10 felony charges and imprisonment for allegedly misusing federal funds meant for the 2018 Buzzard Fire fight.

Ian Fletcher faces seven counts of felony embezzlement, one count of second-degree felony money laundering and two other charges, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday.

In November 2018, the USDA reimbursed $39,400 in funds to Catron County after the county requested it to fight the wildfire. Fletcher is accused of taking those funds and making several withdrawals to himself to avoid banking reporting requirements.

The former sheriff faces second-degree felony charges of one count each of embezzlement and money laundering for this. Each count carries nine years of imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

Fletcher is also accused of claiming $6,430.38 worth of overtime pay, across six pay periods, to boost his salary. However, as a sheriff, he wasn’t permitted to receive additional pay without legislative approval.

Police charged Fletcher with six counts of special statutory felony for these violations. Each count warrants a basic sentence of no more than five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000, which totals to be 30 years imprisonment and up to $30,000 in fines he faces.

Fletcher also faces a charge of fourth-degree felony misuse of public money and faces possible disqualification from public office, as well as a possible 18 months imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.

He also faces a fourth-degree felony charge of engaging in an official act for personal financial interest, for allegedly diverting the money from the county to himself while also endorsing and providing an invoice for reimbursement to the USDA. That charge also carries a possible 18 months imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.

A trial date for Fletcher hasn’t been set yet.