The case against Sheryl Stapleton
It appears that it was a scam from the beginning. That is, the system set up to funnel at least $956,000 of public education to former state rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton dating back to 2012.
While kickback schemes often evolve, with companies caving over time to funnel money to public officials in return for lucrative public contracts, the one involving Stapleton appears to have been a scheme from the start.
Here's the search warrant detailing the allegations against Stapleton. It's long, but it's worth the read.
Here are some highlights:
– Four businesses and charities directly linked to Stapleton got $954,000 in check deposits from a company, Robotocs Management Learning Systems LLC, a company that was providing online, multiple choice quizes to APS students. The deposits date from 2012. of that money, $319,000 of it went to A Taste of the Caribbean, a restaurant Stapleton owns.
– Robotocs, supposedly based in Washington, D.C., had its payment checks from APD sent to an Albuquerque post office box.
-- Between 2006 and 2021, Robotics billed APS $5.3 million. Robotics had a sole source, no-bid contract with APS. Here's a quote from the search warrant: "Sheryl Williams
Stapleton generated the Purchase Orders for CyberQuest licenses and training every year since
2011, though some records show these practices began in 2007. The CyberQuest software license:
renewals were billed at $40,000 per school. There was also teacher training described as
professional development. Ms. Apodaca reports that the price per school remained the same;
however the number of schools reported to use it increased over the years. Ms. Apodaca reports
that from 2011 through 2017, the yearly cost for Robotics procurements steadily increased from
$247,500 0 $468,000. ...“The first date APS was invoiced (rom Robotics was March 6, 2006 (thre separate invoices for 540,000 each), and the last invoice date was June 23, 2021 (twelve separate invoices of varying amounts). During this time period, APS paid Robotics $5,360,030.00."
– In 2018, it appeared that 691 APS students—out of 80,000—were using Robotics's program.
– Robotics was charging APS $40,000 per school to use its program.
– Stapleton is alleged to have used money from the charities that got payments from Robotics for personal matters.
Stapleton deposited the checks fron APS to Robotics into the firm's bank account. From the search warrant: "The search warrant obtained for the bank account records of Robotics also included video
surveillance from the East Lomas Bank of America Branch. The videos provided show a person
who is recognized as Sheryl Williams Stapleton negotiating deposits of checks from APS for
Robotics on May 11, 2021 for $90,900. Additionally, Bank of America provided video surveillance of two other evens in which a person who is recognized as Sheryl Williams Stapleton is seen negotiating checks on behalf of Roboltics.These events took place on October 13, 2020 (deposit made for $145,000), and July 14, 2020 (deposit made for $33,000) at the East Lomas (BankofAmerica) branch in Albuquerque, NM."
– There is some good news in all of this. That is that APS Superintendent Scott Elder had the guts, honor and integrity to report Stapleton to the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. Here's Elder's letter to the AG.
– The other good news is Rennette Apodaca, head of APS's business systems and procurement department, who began looking into this mess and refused to be bullied by Stapleton.