The state Attorney General’s Office has filed a criminal complaint against a former Española city manager suspected of embezzling more than $18,000.
According to the complaint filed Thursday in the First Judicial District Court of Rio Arriba County, it is “probable and reasonable” that 53-year-old David Gilbert Valdez had the chance “and means” to steal the money from a vault on April 12, 2019.
The money — a combination of $6,600 in cash and $11,600 in checks — disappeared from the utilities office safe in the City Hall building at North Paseo de Oñate.
The 19-page complaint says Valdez was the only one of four employees alone in the vault “during the time period the deposit was stolen.”
The city of Española hired Chavez, who lives in Colorado City, Colo., on April 1, 2019. The complaint says he was fired July 9 of that year.
The complaint details a number of actions, caught on surveillance video, that Valdez took during the lunch hour when the other employees were away from the area. It says he looked around cautiously as if to ensure no one was around, then entered the utilities office area with a thin leather portfolio-type case under his left arm.
Though the surveillance video does not cover the vault area, the complaint says Valdez left the utility office area with the case, which “appeared to be thicker than before.”
Investigators looking into the theft interviewed Valdez’s co-workers, who said they reported a deposit bag with cash and checks missing as soon as they discovered it later that day. They said Valdez told them to “not tell anyone” about the missing funds and said the bag and funds likely would pop up soon.
The complaint says Valdez lost thousands of dollars gambling at three New Mexico casinos between March and May 2019.
It says he received his first paycheck from the city — for $1,461.20 — on April 11 and lost $1,323.65 that same day at local casinos.
As of Jan. 20, 2022, the complaint says, the stolen checks have not been cashed.
Efforts to reach Valdez for comment were unsuccessful.
Española Mayor Javier Sánchez was not available for comment Thursday.
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