Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Criminal charges filed in $700K theft from Congregation Albert

A former employee of Congregation Albert was indicated Friday on charges alleging she took more than $700,000 from the Albuquerque synagogue during her tenure as a bookkeeper and administrator.

The grand jury indictment charges Crystal Lucero, 39, with felony larceny for allegedly taking $643,861 in money or checks belonging to the synagogue between August 2016 to June 2019.

Lucero also faces one count of embezzlement for converting nearly $60,000 from Congregation Albert to her own bank accounts through unauthorized credit card purchases, according to the indictment.

Efforts to reach Lucero on Friday were unsuccessful. Court records don’t indicate whether she is represented by an attorney.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office filed the indictment Friday in 2nd Judicial District Court.

“Nonprofit organizations like synagogues rely on trusted employees for much of their financial management and oversight, and it is a tragedy that someone would exploit this vulnerable organization for personal gain,” Balderas said in a written statement.

The indictment charges Lucero with nine felonies, including three counts of tax evasion, three counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, and one count of forgery.

The allegations in the indictment are similar to those cited in a lawsuit Congregation Albert filed against Lucero in July 2019.

The lawsuit alleges Lucero “used at least two credit cards issued to the Congregation to make cash withdrawals and to purchase items for her personal use, including gambling,” then used synagogue funds to pay the credit card charges.

The lawsuit is still pending in 2nd Judicial District Court.

Lucero was employed by Congregation Albert as a bookkeeper from June 2016 to April 2017, and as acting administrator from May 2017 until she her employment ended in June 2019, according to the lawsuit.

As administrator, Lucero was responsible for overseeing the synagogue’s finances and overall operations, the suit said.

It also alleges Lucero concealed records and created fraudulent records to evade detection.

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