Two accused in suspected scam
The executive director of the nonprofit eREAD, which provides educational programs for kids, including ACT/SAT preparatory programs, is accused of illegally spending money intended for the Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission.
Meanwhile, the former executive director of the commission is accused of illegally depositing commission funds with eREAD in order to circumvent state rules and regulations for collecting and dispersing money.
That’s according to a search warrant served Aug. 23 at the Public Employee Retirement Association of New Mexico, looking at the account of eREAD executive director Charles Countee. Copies of that search warrant were released Wednesday by the Attorney General’s Office.
Countee, a retired probation and parole officer, draws a pension from PERA. His financial records from the retirement account, including state-
ments, withdrawals, transfers and personal correspondences, were among the items named in the search warrant “in order to verify Countee’s claim of having withdrawn from his retirement account in order to provide funding for eREAD.”
A message left for Countee at eREAD Wednesday evening was not returned.
According to Special Agent Christopher Kohler, who is conducting the investigation, Kimberly Greene, the MLK Commission’s executive director from 2012 until February 2, 2016, used eREAD as “a third-party fiduciary” to circumvent the state’s procurement rules and regulations” because she thought the process was too rigid and did not fit her model of how she wanted to conduct the commission’s activities.
The bulk of eREAD’s funding is from government entities, including the state of New Mexico and Bernalillo County.
Greene and Countee apparently entered into an informal agreement in which eREAD would hold all funds donated to the MLK Commission in an eREAD account at the Bank of the West, resulting in the co-mingling of funds from both organizations. Countee would then disperse the MLK Commission funds to Greene upon her request. This arrangement was never revealed to the state, the warrant said.
According to the search warrant, multiple times between 2014 and 2016, Countee used money from the co-mingled account to pay eREAD bills and salaries, including his own. On some occasions, eREAD had a negative balance, although the MLK Commission’s funds in the account appeared to make eREAD solvent.
Countee also is accused in the warrant of fraudulently obtaining money from public entities by producing invoices for phony expenses “or by saying he needed money to pay for a program that he had no intention of funding.”