- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Las Cruces police arrested two men Monday accused of embezzling more than $180,000 from a high-ranking member of the New Mexico Senate.

Stephen Dale Siddall, 44, and William Samora, 42, are facing embezzlement and conspiracy charges in the theft of money from personal, campaign and government accounts belonging to Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen.

Siddall - who served as Papen’s campaign treasurer and was a longtime personal assistant - also faces forgery, identity theft and disposing of stolen property charges.

Bond for Siddall was set at $75,000 while Samora was held on a $50,000 cash bond.

It was unclear if the men had attorneys, but Siddall told reporters as he was escorted to a police car that the embezzlement allegations were not true.

Police began investigating last year and discovered more than $8,700 in withdrawals from Papen’s Senate account that dated back to 2013. Another $49,000 disappeared from her election account between November 2013 and May 2015, and more than $125,000 went missing from her personal account.

Police accused Siddall of writing checks and using bank cards to withdraw money from all three accounts. They say he had some help from Samora.

They also claim Siddall sold a watch and bracelet belonging to Papen. The watch was located at a pawn shop in El Paso, Texas, and the silver bracelet was returned by a woman who told authorities she had purchased it from Siddall for $200.

Siddall was taken into custody at the courthouse in Las Cruces after pleading not guilty to seven felony counts of credit card fraud in a separate case that stems from the theft of a credit card belonging to Papen’s son-in-law, Las Cruces City Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Greg Smith.

Court documents say Siddall and Samora lived at Papen’s home in Las Cruces rent-free with the expectation they would pay utilities.

Papen, 83, first confirmed in November that an investigation was underway into the missing money. In the months since, she and a certified personal accountant worked to figure out how much had been stolen.

Papen alerted the state attorney general’s office and also filed corrected campaign finance forms with the secretary of state’s office.

State officials said Monday they couldn’t recall any similar cases that involved that much money.

Papen told the Las Cruces Sun-News in November that Siddall, who worked as her assistant for about 14 years, had been a trusted person who she treated like a member of her family.

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