According to recent reports, the former financial advisor for the Navajo Nation’s legislature was charged with embezzling thousands of dollars and giving the proceeds to her children. Laura Calvin is accused of signing off on more than $46,000 in financial assistance to two children and four step-children. She will be arraigned in April on six counts of conflict of interest. The charges against this former official came out of an investigation into the use of discretionary funds meant for Navajo recipients. Prosecutors claim that, in total, Calvin funneled more than $79,000 from the fund to her family members during her tenure as financial advisor from 1995 to 2009. She is said to have refused to answer any questions to prevent self-incrimination. The investigation took several years and focused on accounting for the $32 million put into the fund between 2005 and 2010. Because the alleged crime took place on Navajo land, there were complications in jurisdiction and it was difficult for prosecutors to access certain documents or other evidence. Calvin is not the only Navajo leader to have been charged with using these funds for personal gain or to benefit family members. She is said to have authorized more than 100 separate transactions, many without proper documentation, to assist her children and stepchildren. The Supreme Court of the Navajo tribe declared the discretionary fund program to be illegal in 2011 after evidence emerged of widespread corruption and embezzlement. Financial Crimes: Difficult to Fight In Some Cases It can be difficult for someone charged with financial crimes to fight those criminal charges in some cases. In the present instance, the woman who was charged with managing the discretionary fund is accused of not having documentation to show why she gave money to family members. There are other questions that must also be asked in a situation like this, however, including:
- How much money was given to non-family members as part of this fund? It could be that Calvin was technically following protocol in distributing funds and simply did not keep good records. Knowing how much money was distributed to non-relatives would help to put the distributions in perspective.
- What were the proper protocols for distribution of funds? How far was Calvin from following those protocols?
- Is she or her family members willing to make restitution?
Ultimately, a good defense attorney may be able to help those accused of financial crimes avoid some of the penalties associated with a conviction.