Fraud Charges Filed Against Ex-New Mexico Legislator and Virginia Associate

Fraud Charges Filed Against Ex-New Mexico Legislator and Virginia Associate

Federal charges have been brought against a former state legislator from New Mexico and her lifelong friend for a sustained plan to cheat the federal government.

The U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico announced that on April 9, 2024, Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a 66-year-old Democrat from Albuquerque who served as the state’s 19th District representative from 1995 to 2021, and her friend Joseph Johnson, a 72-year-old resident of Chantilly, Virginia, will make their initial appearance in federal court.

Stapleton allegedly utilized her role as Career and Technical Education (CTE) Coordinator and Director of the Perkins Project at Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) to award Robotics Management Learning Systems (Robotics) about 40% of APS’s non-personnel CTE funds between July 2013 and June 2020.

The business was owned by Johnson, a close personal friend of hers. The usage of CyberQuest software in APS classrooms was funded by the school system.

Stapleton gave his approval for these Robotics expenses and gave the APS employees instructions to approve those bills.

Checks made payable to Robotics by APS were mailed to an Albuquerque post office box. After that, Stapleton went to the post office to get the checks and put them in the Robotics bank account. Johnson then gave the Robotics business checking account blank checks.

Stapleton wrote herself 233 checks totaling $1,152,506.00 using the blank checks from the business account. It represents almost 35% of the robotics payment made by APS.

According to the publication, the following information relates to the fake checks:

Stapleton owned and controlled S. Williams & Associates, a business, and he wrote over 60 checks totaling about $286,772.20 to Robotics. Stapleton made roughly 56 checks totaling approximately $313,123.48 to Taste of the Caribbean, a restaurant she and her family controlled in Albuquerque.

A charitable organization that Stapleton and Johnson jointly ran and controlled, Ujima Foundation, received approximately 104 cheques from Robotics totaling approximately $479,960.86.Stapleton received approximately 11 checks totaling roughly $72,649.16 in payment from Robotics to various companies that supplied him with goods and services, including home improvements.

Stapleton and Johnson were charged with “one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, thirteen counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and five counts each of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds” in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury last week, officials said.

In addition, Stapleton is charged with nine counts of money laundering and one count of fraud and false representations.

“New Mexicans deserve public systems that serve them and public servants who are honest, effective, and worthy of our trust,” U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez stated. “Fraud against the government is just a fancy way to say that someone is stealing your hard-earned tax dollars. Public corruption is a fancy way of saying that they abuse your trust to do so. When public officials steal from our pockets and from our children, we will restore your faith in our public systems through vigorous investigation and zealous prosecution.”

If found guilty, Stapleton and Johnson will each serve 20 years in jail and then three years of supervised release. The indictment is available to view here.


With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.