ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A member of the Albuquerque Public Schools education board on Wednesday denied any role in the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a troubled charter school that she helped to establish.
Mark Lowry, an attorney for Analee Maestas, said in a statement his client was not aware of any alleged criminal activity involving her daughter, Julieanne Maestas, who once worked as the assistant business manager at La Promesa Early Learning Center.
The school already was already under scrutiny for financial mismanagement when the state auditor’s office earlier this month made public a report detailing new allegations that the former assistant business manager had deposited over 500 checks worth more than $475,000 into her personal bank account.
Those checks were written to various vendors, but auditors said it appeared they were signed over to the employee through a process known as dual endorsing.
Auditors also found about $177,000 worth of checks made payable to Maestas and a boyfriend of her daughter who was a school vendor but has not been identified. Those were also deposited into the daughter’s personal account.
Maestas said she was unaware of any wrongdoing and suggested that her daughter’s substance abuse problems were directly related to issues outlined in the auditor’s report. She said attempts to enroll her daughter into a treatment program were unsuccessful.
Maestas “would never jeopardize her reputation or her long career in childhood education by participating in such a scheme,” the statement from her attorney read.
No charges have been filed, and it was not immediately clear if Julieanne Maestas had an attorney. There also were no current phone listings for her.
The school first made headlines last year when Analee Maestas was accused of altering a receipt for maintenance work she had done at her home so she could be reimbursed as if it had been a school expense. Maestas founded the charter school in 2008.
The state Public Education Department took over the school’s finances last year after Maestas was asked to resign. Her daughter also was discharged at that time.
The auditor’s office began investigating after the school’s current leadership reported suspicious financial activity. The inquiry covered records dating back to 2010.
Maestas’ attorney said during that period, the Public Education Department audited the school using an independent auditor but never identified any possible fraud or embezzlement.