Navajo Nation Financial Advisor Charged in Fund-Misuse Case

Apr 3, 2014

A former financial adviser for the Navajo Nation has been charged with several counts of conflict of interest. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s part of a case that involves several current and former lawmakers of the tribe.

Council Speaker Johnny Naize pleaded not guilty last month to involvement in the scheme.

Laura Calvin will be arraigned later this month in Window Rock District Court. Prosecutors allege she took part in a scheme to direct money from a tribal discretionary fund designed to help Navajos in need. According to the Navajo-Hopi Observer, Calvin’s job was to oversee the distribution of that money. But, authorities say she signed off on more than 80 documents funneling tens of thousands of dollars to her family members between 2007 and 2009. She’s now being charged with six counts of conflict of interest.

The case implicates several current and former members of the Navajo Nation Council. Prosecutors say some of the lawmakers arranged for money to go to each other’s families in a quid-pro-quo situation. One of those allegedly involved, Council Speaker Johnny Naize, pleaded not guilty last month to 11 complaints of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. An attempt is currently underway in the council to remove Naize from his post.

In February, two former members of the Navajo Nation Council pleaded guilty to involvement in the scheme.

Last year, prosecutors granted Calvin immunity in return for her testimony. But, she invoked her right against self-incrimination and did not cooperate. Calvin’s husband is former council delegate Leonard Teller. Allegedly his children, along with members of Calvin’s biological family, were among the beneficiaries of Calvin’s actions with the fund.