State Auditor Tim Keller discovered last Thursday that the city of Albuquerque was the victim of a fraud scheme that diverted at least $420,000 of public funds into the hands of a fake construction contractor. City officials confirmed that a scammer posed as a construction contractor working on a city project and filed a work invoice that appeared almost identical to the real one, except with different vendor payment information. It is unclear what city project the scammer pretended to be working on or which agency or individual complied with the requested change of payment information. Officials are unsure of whether or not the loss can be covered by insurance. Early last week, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) had warned agencies to be wary of scams after a very similar debacle cost an elementary school in Socorro $200,000.
City Loses Over $400K to Scam
APS Applying For Native Education Grant
Last month, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill that would have required 23 state school districts to set up programs aimed at addressing the lower-than-average performance of Native American students by studying their learning patterns and finding ways to better serve their needs. She cited state budgetary concerns for the decision, saying the bill would “mandate duplicative programming” that would cost too much. Following the veto, Albuquerque Public Schools announced last week that they will be applying for a $50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation, a Chicago nonprofit organization. The grant would be used to fund a team of researchers who would investigate Native American students’ family environments, cultural practices and family life to help find better ways to engage them in the learning process. Native students have the lowest test scores, graduation rates and attendance of any ethnic group nationwide.
N.M's Worrisome Black Homicide Rate
According to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, New Mexico has the third highest homicide victimization rate in the nation per capita for African-Americans. Although the sample size was smaller than average—there are less than 60,000 African-Americans currently living in New Mexico—the state's black homicide rate was 28.48 per 100,000 in 2014, the most recent year with available data, compared to the national rate of 16.38 per 100,000. The report states that there were 15 qualifying black homicide victims, almost four times the overall homicide rate nationwide (4.19 per 100,000). In all but one of the incidents studied, the victim was killed by someone they knew. For cases in which the circumstances could be identified, only 3 were related to the commission of another felony. Where the murder weapon could be identified, 79 percent of victims (11 out of 14) were killed by firearms. The New Mexico Department of Health contests the report, however, since records show only nine homicides among African-Americans in 2014, for a rate of 18.7 black homicide victims per 100,000. The Violence Policy Center says its data was sourced from “unpublished Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data” from the FBI's “Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.”