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Embezzlement Update

Everything posted here is public information obtained from the Court’s website and/or the MDC website, and does not contain any information protected by attorney-client privilege or that addresses case strategies or tactics.

Updates are posted in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent update appears first.

 

Update on 5/17/24 court hearing for Crystal’s request to have her sentence reduced:

Crystal's lawyer tried to make the case that her sentence should be reduced so she can go back to work and make restitution to the State for her misdeeds. The Judge relied heavily on the fact that Crystal would be in no position to make restitution to the State because she would need to make restitution first to the Temple pursuant to its civil judgment. So, as much as we spent and as much pain as it was to get that civil judgment, it bore enormous fruit (although no recovery). Per Judge Britt Baca-Miller, that civil judgment was a large reason Crystal’s sentence was originally made so long and why it was not reduced in the hearing.

The Judge was also motivated by the sheer magnitude of Crystal's thievery and by Crystal’s obvious lack of sincerity in expressing remorse in her statement to the court at the hearing. According to the Judge, that expression of remorse, such as it was, failed to recognize the impact on the community Crystal claimed to love.

As a result of the Judge’s denial of the request, Crystal remains in jail at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants and will serve her full sentence (less any time off for good behavior).

Considering the damage caused by Crystal to Congregation Albert, her other victims, herself, and her family, this truly is tragic and very sad.

 

Update as of 5/14/2024:   ZOOM LINK

The court has scheduled Crystal’s hearing on a requested reduction in sentence. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, 5/17, at 2:30 PM in front of Judge Britt Baca-Miller. The Attorney General’s office has verified that the hearing is only on Zoom. 

Join Zoom Meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89450329686?pwd=Wi8vS29WM1VEaittWFRqT29jbWRyZz09

Meeting ID: 894 5032 9686

Passcode: 280437

 

Update as of 5/9/2024:

The Congregation was notified on Tuesday afternoon, 5/7, of a hearing on Wednesday morning, 5/8, for Crystal.

Crystal has so far decided not to appeal her conviction but is asking for her sentence to be reduced (possibly to time served).

The 5/8 hearing was to determine whether Crystal has the right to appear in person and, if so, whether it is the government’s responsibility to transport her from the prison in Grants. The hearing was very quick. The judge said that Crystal appearing by video is the same as being in person, and therefore the government has no responsibility to transport her.

Crystal is now being represented by the Public Defender’s Office. For the benefit of the new defense team, the judge noted that at the sentencing hearing there were more than 100 Zoom connections from the Congregation Albert members. At this point, there is no new evidence being presented of which the AG is aware.

The hearing on her possible reduction of sentence will likely be the week of 5/24. It has not yet been scheduled but that is the week the judge was looking at. The hearing will be both on Zoom and in person.

 

Update as of 9/22/2023 at 12:55pm:

A personal message from Dale R. Atkinson:

 

After more than 4 years of dealing with the fallout from Crystal’s embezzlement, she is finally being held accountable and we are seeing justice. It is time to let this go and allow ourselves to heal. Crystal did massive damage to us but we survived and now are starting to flourish again. However, we also did damage to ourselves and our own members. It is time to bring those members back and welcome them home. This includes former Board members and officers who, while as unaware as the rest of us of Crystal’s criminal behavior, were blamed and shamed into leaving our sacred community. In this time of Yom Kippur, please welcome everyone and allow the congregation to fully heal and move forward. As the judge said today, it is unlikely we’ll ever get enough restitution to make up for what we lost. So now it is time to look forward to our future together as a fully healed community.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, this community, and each other throughout this fight.

Dale R. Atkinson

 

Update as of 9/22/2023 at 12:44pm:

Today, Crystal Lucero was sentenced by the Judge Britt Baca-Miller of the 2nd Judicial District Court. The sentence that was handed down was as follows:

Sentenced to serve consecutively 31.5 years in prison for the following counts:

  • Forgery (Make or Alter)(Over $20,000)
  • Larceny (Over $20,000)
  • Embezzlement (Over $20,000)
  • Attempted to Evade or Defeat Tax – 2017
  • Attempted to Evade or Defeat Tax – 2018
  • Attempted to Evade or Defeat Tax – 2019

Sentenced to serve 4 years concurrently with the above sentence for the following counts:

  • Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card Without Consent of Cardholder (From $2,500 - $20,000) – 2018
  • Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card Without Consent of Cardholder (From $2,500 - $20,000) – 2019

Recall that she was found not guilty of Count 4. Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card Without Consent of Cardholder (From $2,500 - $20,000) – 2017.

Of the 31.5-year sentence, the judge suspended 11.5 years. This means Crystal is sentenced to 20 years in the Department of Corrections (DOC) prison system. She will likely be moved today from the Metropolitan Detention Center to the DOC.

  • Crystal will be eligible for “good time” of up to ½ of the 20 years, but the AG is expecting she’ll serve around 14 years based on the averages for others like her (that is, with her poor behavior of lying and playing people against each other).

Once she is released 10 to 20 years from now, she will be on supervised probation and parole for 2 years. In addition, during the remaining 11.5 years, if she messes up criminally, she’ll go back to prison to finish that 11.5-year sentence.

  1. The supervised probation and parole conditions include:

Drug testing,

  • Alcohol testing,
  • Must be working or in school,
  • Cannot possess firearms,
  • Cannot go near Congregation Albert or any of its members,
  • Cannot go into anyone’s house unaccompanied,
  • Cannot work in a position where she’ll have access to any individual’s or company’s finances,
  • Cannot go into a business where money is being processed unaccompanied,
  • Must attend the DOC-designated therapy, alcohol rehabilitation, and/or drug rehabilitation.
  • Full restitution to Congregation Albert. If she doesn’t make a restitution payment in any month, she has to serve 40 hours of community service.

The AG had requested 25 years, the defense had requested probation or at most 10 years, and the DOC Parole and Probation Officer’s Pre-Sentencing Report (PSR) had recommended 15 years.

Crystal’s sentencing for the other case with the two fraud counts is currently scheduled for October 22nd at 1:30 PM.

Update as of 9/22/2023:

Crystal Lucero was sentenced this morning in the embezzlement case. This page will be updated with details as they are clarified.

 

Update as of 9/21/2023 (updated link):

The criminal sentencing hearing for Crystal Lucero will be held on this coming Friday morning (9/22) at 10:30 AM. This hearing will be held by ZOOM only. This is a public hearing and open to anyone with an interest in this matter. You will be able to listen and watch but will not be allowed to speak. The meeting information is:

CLICK HERE FOR ZOOM MEETING

Meeting ID: 889 2353 1600

Passcode: 540216

Dial by your location

• +1 253 205 0468 US

 

Update as of 9/19/2023:

The criminal sentencing hearing for Crystal Lucero will be held on this coming Friday morning (9/22) at 10:30 AM. This hearing will be held by ZOOM only. This is a public hearing and open to anyone with an interest in this matter. You will be able to listen and watch but will not be allowed to speak. The meeting information is:

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8892353l600?pwd=TDdVcDkxejlYZjVOWDRuNUJGL25ndz09lHOUR

The lawyers from the Attorney General’s office have worked with us to identify the speakers and have submitted the following lineup and subjects to the court:

  1. Dale Atkinson – Financial and Program impacts
  2. Scott Steinberg – Personal impacts
  3. Ron Segel – Historical and Legacy impacts
  4. Rabbi Celia Surget – Congregational impacts

This is to avoid duplication among speakers.

Please feel free to attend this hearing and show the judge that we care about the outcome.

 

 

Update as of 8/30/2023:

The judge has ruled that, rather than have a hearing regarding changing Crystal’s conditions of release (as requested by the defense now that Crystal is in jail), the sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for October 18th has now been moved to September 22nd at 10:30 AM. Also, since Crystal is in jail, it is court policy that everyone (judge, defense and prosecution counsel, Crystal, and anyone making statements to the court) will be on Zoom.

As a result of this change, the victim impact statements are now due by September 8th.

The AG’s office will be providing the Zoom link, which will be distributed to membership upon receipt.

      

 

Update as of 8/16/2023:

Today, Crystal was arrested by her probation officer in the Community Custody Program (CCP). There was a violation of her conditions under the CCP. Crystal was remanded into custody in the Metropolitan Detention Center. The AG’s office and the probation and parole office have recommended that she be held until sentencing as scheduled on October 18th at 9 AM. Unless the judge overrides this recommendation, Crystal will be remanded pending sentencing.

 

Update as of 8/14/2023:

While awaiting her sentencing hearing scheduled for October 18, 2023, at 9 AM, Crystal was ordered by the courts to be registered in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) Community Custody Program (CCP). As required by the judge, she turned herself in on Friday, 8/11, and is now on a GPS ankle monitor. She is allowed to go to her counseling appointments, to visit her probation/parole officer, to her work, and, once per week, to the grocer. Otherwise, she is restricted to her home. She currently lives with her father. Additionally, Crystal is drug tested twice per week, alcohol tested four times per day, and has weekly home inspections by CCP. The Assistant Attorney General for Crystal’s cases, Andrew Coffing, is in close contact with Crystal’s CCP Supervisor. Should there be any violations, Mr. Coffing will address them with the court immediately.

 

Update as of 8/4/2023:

We have successfully sued Ms. Lucero in civil court with a judgement to return those funds and today, a jury convicted her on eight criminal counts. We are grateful to the Attorney General for pursuing criminal charges against Ms. Lucero and bringing her to justice for the crimes she committed against our Congregation.
 
While a judge will determine her sentencing within 45 days, we know justice has prevailed.
 
Thank you to all of you who encouraged us throughout this process. While it took time to see this through, we see the conviction as important closure. We are confident in the steps we have taken to create sound fiscal governance at Congregation Albert moving forward and are grateful for your support as we continue on the path forward.
 
At this time with this conviction, we feel we can put this issue behind us and move on.

 

 

       Update as of 7/21/2023:

Crystal’s criminal prosecution is scheduled for July 31, 2023, through August 4, 2023. The trial is open to the public and is at the Second Judicial District Courthouse on Fourth and Lomas.

 

Update as of 7/14/23:

 

For the civil case, attempts to recover the more than $1M awarded by the court (including interest) continue to be on hold due to not being able to find a legal firm willing to take the case on contingency.

 For the criminal case, at the pretrial conference/docket call on 7/14/2023, the court identified a scheduling conflict. The judge is moving the trial to the next docket which will be open between July 31, 2023, and August 18, 2023. The new dates of the trial have not been set yet.

 

Update as of 7/13/23:

For the civil case, attempts to recover the more than $1M awarded by the court (including interest) continue to be on hold due to not being able to find a legal firm willing to take the case on contingency.

For the criminal case, the next to the last phase of the criminal proceedings is getting ready to start. Crystal and her attorney have decided not to pursue a plea deal but instead go to trial.

The Attorney General’s office is prosecuting this case. The Assistant Attorney General who will be the trial attorney is Andrew Coffing. The trial will be held in the 2nd Judicial District court at 4th and Lomas. It will start at 8:30 AM on Monday morning the 24th and will continue throughout the week. It is open to the public.

Anytime between now and then (or even during the trial), Crystal could change her mind and pursue a plea deal. She could also possibly identify a reason that the court would accept to further postpone the start of the trial.

Should there be a conviction, due to the amount of exposure (jail time and fines) Crystal would be facing there will be a sentencing hearing at a later date. Anyone from the synagogue will be permitted to provide victim statements. Dale Atkinson will provide a victim statement on behalf of Congregation Albert as an organization. Others will be allowed to provide individual victim statements if they so desire so long as it doesn’t become duplicative.

 

6/12/2023:

Regarding the civil suit against Crystal and the associated recovery efforts, we were successful finally in late January in receiving both the Writ of Execution and Writ of Assistance. Unfortunately, Crystal had been given several months advance notice so that, when the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and our legal team entered her rented casita, there was little to find, and Crystal had already left the building. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office did retain a few items and, if those can be sold, the resulting money would come to us as part of our restitution. The list is awaiting the court’s approval to be sold.

To date, while we have received the expected $25,000 from our insurance and Crystal’s uncle repaid us for the CPAP supplied Crystal bought for him from Amazon on our credit card (about $200 – and Crystal charged him for the supplies, too), Crystal has not made any attempt to assist us with our recovery nor provided any restitution. Our summary judgment was for $750,000 and, with the interest imposed by the court, Crystal now owes us well over $1,000,000.

Regarding the civil suit against the Isaac Lucero estate, the Lucero’s lawyer has filed a brief with the court that Isaac’s parents (the executors and recipients of the estate) have no responsibility for any debts incurred by Isaac. While several attorneys have told us this is not correct, the judge has agreed to hold a hearing to address the filing. The hearing has not yet been scheduled and, in the meantime, our subpoenas are not being responded to and our other investigations are on hold. Recall, Isaac Lucero was Crystal’s fiancé and Crystal has claimed she gave all the money to Isaac.

Other than participating in this hearing before the judge in the Isaac Lucero civil suit, all other efforts at recovery have been paused at this time. We are no longer able to pay our attorneys or investigator for this work. We are looking for an attorney who would be willing to take the rest of the case on contingency. If you can recommend someone, please contact Dale Atkinson at daleatkinson@congregationalbert.org.

Regarding the Attorney General’s criminal cases against Crystal, the separate fraud case that we uncovered and referred to the Attorney General has reached a plea agreement. Crystal pled “no contest” to two of the charges and the third charge was dropped:

  • Fraud (over $2,500)                                                                                       Dropped
  • Unlawful use or theft of an ATM or debit card                                     No Contest
  • Embezzlement (over $2,500 but not more than $20,000)              No Contest

Effectively, a “no contest” plea means that Crystal is not admitting her guilt but is admitting that the Attorney General could likely convince a jury to convict her, so she is throwing herself on the mercy of the court. Judge Joseph Montano has “continued” the sentencing and no sentencing hearing has yet been scheduled.

Regarding the criminal case for our embezzlement, the original pretrial conference and docket call that was scheduled for January 27, 2023, was cancelled by the court due to docket conflicts and an error in scheduling. The new date for the pretrial conference and docket call is currently set for July 14, 2023. To this end, Crystal’s attorney (Mr. Christopher Marlowe) and the Attorney General’s attorney (Mr. Andrew Coffing) have been holding pretrial interviews with the potential witnesses in the case. However, Judge Britt Baca-Miller has also mandated a settlement conference for a potential plea agreement for June 28, 2023.

This is all the public information we can share at this time. We will update you with additional details as they become available.

11/10/2022:

Regarding the civil suit against Crystal and the associated recovery efforts, we have applied for and received a Writ of Execution. We have also applied for the associated Writ of Assistance. We are awaiting the Judge to issue this Writ of Assistance. This will allow us to enter Crystal’s premises with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office’s support to take anything of value as settlement against our claims. With the interest imposed by the court in addition to the Summary Judgment value, Crystal now owes us over $990,000.

Separately, in our case against Wells Fargo Bank, we have not heard anything yet. They have until November 17, 2022, to respond.

Similarly, in our case against the Isaac Lucero Estate, we have not heard anything yet.

11/10/2022:

Regarding the civil suit against Crystal and the associated recovery efforts, we have applied for and received a Writ of Execution. We have also applied for the associated Writ of Assistance. We are awaiting the Judge to issue this Writ of Assistance. This will allow us to enter Crystal’s premises with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office’s support to take anything of value as settlement against our claims. With the interest imposed by the court in addition to the Summary Judgment value, Crystal now owes us over $990,000.

Separately, in our case against Wells Fargo Bank, we have not heard anything yet. They have until November 17, 2022, to respond.

Similarly, in our case against the Isaac Lucero Estate, we have not heard anything yet.

10/31/2022:

The below is public information from the NM Courts website.

The scheduling conference for Crystal’s fraud trial was Monday. The Judge has established the following at this time:

•            5/8/23                1:30 PM              Evidentiary Hearing

•            5/22/23              1:30 PM              Pretrial Conference/Docket Call

Note that our criminal case against Crystal is still scheduled as follows:

•            1/27/23              1:30 PM              Pretrial Conference/Docket Call

9/22/2022:

As of yesterday, the Attorney General’s office filed a Supervening Indictment with the Court. This means that Crystal was indicted for these additional charges and the case will be proceeding in District Court where our case is.

As of now, the charges in Metropolitan Court have been dismissed because the case is proceeding in District Court. This also means that the Preliminary Hearing scheduled for Rosh Hashanah morning has been canceled.

September 2022

There have been important updates to the civil and criminal cases since our last update. Crystal has been charged by the New Mexico Attorney General’s office in District with nine felony counts and has been arrested. She is out on bail and is currently set for a preliminary hearing to prepare for trial in late January 2023. Separately, our investigations uncovered what appeared to be additional criminal activities from after Crystal left our employ. We referred this information to the Attorney General’s office, and they have since charged Crystal with two more felonies in Metropolitan Court. Crystal is out under the supervision of the Court’s Pretrial Services with zero tolerance for any problems. Crystal’s preliminary hearing on this case occurs the morning of Rosh Hashanah.

In the Civil case, we continue to try to recover our money. We were awarded $749K which, with interest, is now about $900k. Thanks to the very generous support of an anonymous donor, we have been able to further investigate several possibilities for liability for our funds. To that end, we have filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank and against the Estate of Isaac Lucero, Crystal’s former fiancé.

This is all the public information we can share at this time. We will update you with additional details as they become available.

Sun, May 26 2024 18 Iyar 5784