A former purchasing agent for the Jicarilla Apache Nation pled guilty in federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 17 to embezzling more than $20,000 from the tribe.
Vanessa Cohoe (now known as Vanessa Vicenti), 46, formerly of Dulce, New Mexico served as the purchasing agent for the Nation from February 2007 through June 2011. She was charged in an indictment filed on December 17, 2015, with theft of funds belonging to the Jicarilla Apache. Cohoe embezzled approximately $23,039.23 between December 2010 and May 2011 from the Nation. She was also charged with embezzling more than $1,000 in funds belonging to an Indian Tribal organization by using the Nation’s credit card on eight occasions between January 2011 and April 2011, according to a Department of Justice release.
On Tuesday, Cohoe pled guilty to the theft charge, and admitted embezzling funds belonging to the Nation. Her plea agreement states that she committed the crime while employed as the purchasing agent. While serving in that capacity, she had access to and used the Tribe’s Sam’s Club credit card for authorized purchases. The unauthorized purchases mentioned in the indictment included gift cards, alcohol, groceries, clothes and cosmetics for herself and her family. Cohoe hid her embezzlement by intercepting the credit card bills and modifying them before submitting them to the bill department for payment. She was suspended in May 2011 and terminated following a full investigation in June of that year.
Cohoe will be sentenced to a one to five year term of probation and will be required to pay $5,000 in restitution to the Nation, according to her plea agreement. That amount is the difference between the total unauthorized purchases and the amount the Nation has been reimbursed by its insurer.