FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - A former financial adviser for the Navajo Nation’s legislative branch funneled tens of thousands of dollars to her children in violation of tribal law, criminal complaints filed in tribal court allege.
Prosecutors say Laura Calvin personally signed off on more than $46,000 in financial assistance requests for two of her children and four stepchildren. She is scheduled to be arraigned on six counts of conflicts of interest on April 21 in Window Rock District Court.
The charges against Calvin stem from an investigation into the use of a discretionary fund meant for Navajos who had no other way to pay expenses and that prohibited nepotism. Prosecutors said three of Calvin’s children and four stepchildren received $79,000 from the fund over several years.
Attempts to reach Calvin, who served as the financial adviser from 1995 to 2009, for comment Monday were unsuccessful. Two telephone numbers listed for Calvin at her Window Rock address were non-working numbers, and court documents do not list a defense attorney.
Prosecutors wrote in the criminal complaints that Calvin has refused to answer questions regarding money her children received so that she doesn’t incriminate herself.
The yearslong investigation into the use of the discretionary fund initially was focused on the Tribal Council, which set aside $32 million for it from 2005 to 2010. But prosecutors said they had reason to believe that employees of the legislative branch were misusing the money. Prosecutors successfully sought approval last year to expand their jurisdiction to include Navajo Nation employees and those who benefited from the discretionary fund.
Calvin and an accounts specialist for the legislative branch are among those who were charged criminally. Some former and current tribal lawmakers have settled their cases, while others are awaiting trial or have cases pending with the Navajo Nation Office of Hearings and Appeals.
Prosecutors allege that Calvin directly authorized more than 100 financial assistance requests to her children and stepchildren between 2005 and 2009, sometimes without disclosing that the payments were for her children or without supporting documentation. One of Calvin’s stepdaughters, the result of a marriage to former lawmaker Leonard Teller, received more than $31,000 of the $79,000, according to the criminal complaints. Reasons for the children’s financial requests varied from hardship, educational assistance, traditional ceremonies, rent and travel.
The tribe’s Supreme Court declared the discretionary fund program illegal in 2011.
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