CENTER — In August 2006, Center Town Clerk Bill McClure left his position to serve time in the federal Maximum Security (ADX) facility in Florence for tax fraud. Center Clerk Joan D. Mobley also recently resigned — probably to serve time in federal prison for tax-related fraud.
Mobley served as town clerk/treasurer from April of 2015 to Friday of last week, departing early after announcing she would remain on until the end of July. Her departure came on the heels of a tip from a local resident, unraveling the true story of Mobley’s resignation and offering an explanation for her periodic absences from her duties with the town over the past few years.
A March 14 news release found on the Internet, issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, reported: “Joan D. Mobley, 54, of Socorro N. M., pled guilty in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a false statement charge and two aggravated identity theft charges.
“The guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and Cordale Lamb of the Denver Field Division of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).” Federal guidelines state defendants are presumed innocent until they admit guilt or are proven guilty.
According to the town’s July newsletter last week, Mobley cited health concerns for herself and her elderly mother as reasons for her resignation. “Joan has worked hard for the past two years and, together with employees and board, has accomplished much toward Center’s progress,” the newsletter editor commented. The search for her replacement will begin immediately, the newsletter said.
As reported in the April 23, 2015 edition of the Center Post-Dispatch regarding Mobley’s new position as town clerk/treasurer, Mobley said she resided in South Fork and had worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from 1985-2015, where she gained her collections and auditing experience. She said she also worked for the IRS in education and communications.
Mobley also kept books for the Center Sanitation Department and according to a sanitation board member, there are some questions the board may need to address regarding expenditures.
Federal Grand Jury indictment
The DOJ article further relates that Mobley worked as a revenue agent at the IRS office in Albuquerque, N.M. performing audits of small businesses and self-employed taxpayers at the time she committed the crimes to which she pled guilty. On Jan. 3, 2014, a federal grand jury filed a 28-count indictment charging Mobley with 14 counts of making false statements and 14 counts of aggravated identity theft.
The DOJ article further states:
“According to the indictment, between January 2011 and December 2011, Mobley falsely stated and represented to the IRS that certain taxpayers either had consented to extending the time for assessing employment taxes or agreed to the collection and assessment of additional taxes. The indictment also alleged that Mobley used the identification of those taxpayers in making those false statements without obtaining consent.”
The charges against Mobley became a matter of public record, a DOJ spokesperson confirmed, when the indictment was filed by the grand jury Dec. 3, 2014. After over two years in the federal court system, Mobley agreed to accept a plea deal March 14, pleading guilty to one false statements charge and two aggravated identity theft charges. She also gave details of the criminal acts she admitted.
Mobley also is required to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $39,738 under the terms of her plea agreement, the DOJ article said.
The false statements charge could result in five years imprisonment and a mandatory two-year term is levied for each of the two aggravated identity theft charges. A date for a sentencing hearing, according to federal guidelines, must be set approximately eight weeks following the plea deal, but Mobley has not been sentenced to date. However, according to an Associated Press release dated March 14, Mobley will likely spend time in prison.
Center hiring practices
For a minimal fee, state bureau of investigation background checks can be performed on candidates seeking positions of employment. Those can be done in each state where the candidate may have lived or worked. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) guidelines caution that employers must seek permission before conducting a background check, and inform the applicant that refusal may result in the employer rejecting the application.
“We do not know what types of background checks different municipalities or other state government agencies employ when vetting applicants for employment,” Elizabeth M. Martinez, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney and Public Affairs Officer wrote in an email Monday. Martinez also said the grand jury indictment was available as a public record a few months before Mobley was hired by Center. A source close to town government during Mobley’s hiring process reports s/he cannot remember if the town ran a background check on Mobley or not, but admitted it is standard practice. By signing the town’s application for employment available on the town website, however, applicants authorize the town to obtain relevant court records and agree to a possible background check.
“If she had declined [the background check], we would have gone with our next choice,” the source said, noting there were others who applied for the position. S/he also noted: “Joan was always very professional,” was tightening up internal audit controls and was following auditor recommendations while serving as clerk. When asked if the town knew of Mobley’s offense but was simply keeping quiet, s/he said: “I highly doubt anyone knew.”
Following the resignation of interim town administrator Scott Harold in 2014, the Valley Courier placed an ad in its publication for applicants to fill a combined Center town administrator/public works position at $70,000 a year for Mobley’s predecessor, Jane Berry. Mobley’s hire-on pay reportedly was only $45,000 annually, even though she served the town as both clerk and treasurer and the town no longer employs a town administrator.
When Berry left the town administrator position, she urged the board to hire a town clerk/treasurer to take the pressure off current town staff then filling in for the position, stressing the need to right the town’s financial situation. When Berry resigned, former mayor Susan Banning noted the town’s finances were not in good shape.
Banning wrote in an email in 2014: “The 2013 town board put its trust in Town Clerk Christian Samora to expertly do his job. However, the appropriate budget adjustments were not made. I place the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of our [former] town clerk.” Owing to Samora’s questionable role in the 2010 election controversy in Saguache, where he then was an assistant clerk, several county residents protested his hiring at the time.