County employee accused of embezzlement
An employee at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office is accused of stealing nearly $23,000 from taxpayers.
Clifford Valencia, 25, was arrested on Thursday afternoon and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on embezzlement charges and intimidation of a witness just after 8 p.m.
County Clerk Maggie Toulouse-Oliver told Veritas New Mexico that Valencia was assigned to the office’s Recording and Filing Department.
He allegedly figured out a way to pocket a large percentage of cash paid by individuals, business, and government agencies, including the City of Albuquerque, for their various document filings.
“Even with the quality control process we have in place there was no way to know this was happening,” Toulouse-Oliver said. “He found a loophole in the software that our vendor didn’t even know existed.”
An annual audit also did not detect the scheme.
Instead, Toulouse-Oliver said a co-worked discovered Valencia’s illegal scam and reported it to supervisors earlier this week.
A deputy director quickly referred the matter to Sheriff’s investigators.
“I was heart sickened when I heard about this,” Toulouse-Oliver said. “I know it sounds like a cliche, but this is just one bad apple out of the bunch. Our staff is both hardworking and ethical.”
The clerk told us the state’s Department of Public Safety conducts a background check on every employee before they are hired and Valencia had been cleared.
State statutes determine the fee schedule for filing a document with a county clerk and services have to be paid at the time they are rendered.
Toulouse-Oliver said the law does not make a distinction between individuals, businesses or government agencies, which is why the City of Albuquerque has been paying in cash for their document recordings.
The clerk tells us she has been working with the City of Albuquerque to see about a billing procedure to avoid large cash payments, but those discussions are on-going.
Valencia has been put on administrative leave.
Toulouse-Oliver said she will move quickly to schedule a disciplinary hearing. That could result in his termination.
Updated – 6am
County officials say the employee who reported Valencia to supervisors told them she’s received threats. If she files a complaint they said they will ask the sheriff’s department for a protective order.
Valencia bailed out of jail and will likely have his first court appearance on Thursday or Friday.