Alamo school board members indicted

Former Alamo Navajo School Board members Steven Apache, Bucky Apache and Hector Guerro.

Three former Alamo Navajo School Board members – Bucky Apache, Stephen Apache, and Hector Guerro – face multiple federal criminal charges for stealing federal money from the school, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, theft, demanding kickbacks from a contractor, and false statements.

Besides the tribally controlled public school system, Alamo Navajo School Board (ANSB) also operates the reservation’s Roads Department, the Health Clinic, Technology Department, the Wellness Center, the Early Childhood Center, and the Adult Education Program.

The Grand Jury indictments stem from 2017 and 2018, when Hector Guerro, Bucky Apache, and Steven Apache were on the Alamo Navajo School Board. The trio is accused of getting reimbursed for travel to conferences and meetings that they never attended. The federal criminal complaint lists more than three dozen separate allegations of illegal travel claims for events like educational conventions and Navajo Nation Council meetings.

During fiscal year 2018, about $17.7 million of the ANSB’s $23.5 million budget came directly from federal funds. One document shown to the Navajo Times shows the board had spent $497,000, nearly half a million dollars, on travel, reimbursements, pay adjustments, cash advances, bonuses, and other expenses not directly related to educating children.

The federal criminal complaint also lists demands for kickbacks by two school board members from a contractor for a contract they awarded.

Count 1 of the federal indictment states the three “accepted payments from the ANSB that were intended to reimburse them for legitimate travel expenses and to pay for their authorized meal per diem,” despite the fact that “some of the scheduled meetings and conferences never took place, were cancelled, and otherwise did not occur.”

Count 2 of the indictment states the three former school board members “embezzled, stole, obtained by fraud, intentionally misapplied and without authority knowingly converted to [their] use …. funds designated for official ANSB travel purposes.”

Count 3 of the indictment singles out Hector Guerro and Bucky Apache, as conspiring to “commit certain offenses against the United States, namely Wire Fraud and Honest Services Fraud…” and demanding kickbacks from certain contractors.

Count 4 of the indictment accuses Hector Guerro of lying to the Special Agent investigating the case about the alleged misuse of travel funds and receiving kickbacks.

And Count 5 of the indictment also accuses Bucky Apache of lying to the same Special Agent about the alleged misuse of travel funds and receiving kickbacks.

In fact, the Grand Jury indictment lists 44 separate instances between September, 2017, and May, 2018, where actual meetings were not attended, nonexistent meetings they claimed to have attended, and travel receipts that were falsified.

According to Tommy Lewis, Director of the Department of Dine' Education, in a press release, stated, “the DODE worked in partnership with the Navajo Nation White Collar Crime Unit and associated federal agencies to pursue the case. This issue was brought to the Department's attention by concerned Alamo Navajo parents, stakeholders, and whistle-blowers who wanted to hold their school board members accountable.”

The school board came under public scrutiny following reports by Albuquerque television station KOB-TV about the board spending $200,000 in travel over a six-month period. The reports seemed to indicate the funding for the trips came out of operating funds for the school.

According to records published in The Chieftain in July, 2018, the three racked up excessive prior travel expenses from 2013 on.

  • Hector Guerro had expenses totaling $128,427.89 from 2013-18.
  • Bucky Apache had expenses totaling $42,339.31 for 2017-18.
  • Steven Apache had expenses totaling $38,797.33 from 2017-18.

All three Alamo school board members were successfully recalled by their community/voters and removed from office in March, 2019. They also were banned from holding any other tribal elected office for eight years. The fourth Alamo school board member, Edward Padilla, died and wasn't included on the indictment.