Williams Stapleton set for court date early next year

·2 min read

Jul. 19—The Attorney General's Office continues to build a criminal case against Sheryl Williams Stapleton in preparation for a racketeering and money-laundering trial that could come early next year — at least 18 months after agents began investigating the former state lawmaker.

The delay, court records show, is due in part to a request from defense attorneys and prosecutors for more time to examine a trove of documents in the case, which dates back to 2015.

An evidence hearing is scheduled in late January 2023 in the 2nd Judicial District Court in Bernalillo County for the longtime powerful House Democrat, who is accused of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Albuquerque Public Schools, where she worked for years as an administrator, and using her legislative position for personal benefit.

A pretrial conference is set to follow in February. The proceedings will come as the Legislature convenes for its regular 60-day session.

Prosecutors have filed several witness lists in court, announcing they intend to call on special agents from the Attorney General's Office and Williams Stapleton's co-workers at Albuquerque Public Schools.

Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote in an email Monday, "Our office continues to work with state and federal authorities as this case proceeds towards trial."

Neither Ahmad Assed of Albuquerque, an attorney who represents Williams Stapleton, nor co-counsel Ryan Villa returned calls seeking comment Monday.

State investigators began looking into Williams Stapleton's activities at the Albuquerque school district in summer 2021 amid concerns she had been funneling money to personal or business-related accounts through an elaborate scheme. The investigation focused on her relationship with Washington, D.C.-based Robotics Management Learning Systems LLC, which had provided online learning materials to the district.

According to records in the case, another school administrator first noted irregularities in a purchase order from Robotics in 2018 for a teacher training product called CyberQuest. An internal district investigation found Robotics only listed a post office box in Albuquerque and was not registered to do business in the state.

Investigators searched Williams Stapleton's home and business office and subpoenaed records from the Albuquerque school district in July 2021.

She stepped down from her legislative position shortly after and was fired by the district in August.

A New Mexico grand jury indicted her in September on

28 criminal counts accusing her of racketeering, money laundering, fraud, bribery and other allegations.

Federal investigators also launched an investigation, and FBI agents also seized about

$3 million in September connected with the case against Williams Stapleton. Earlier this year, agents for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico asked a federal judge to approve the forfeiture of about $455,000.