Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MST

Feb 7, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Corrections has paid its cabinet secretary $195,000 to settle a civil lawsuit alleging she was paid less than a male counterpart because she is a woman. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Thursday that Alisha Tafoya Lucero filed the lawsuit in 2013 when she was deputy warden at a state penitentiary, claiming she was paid $29 an hour while a male colleague in a similar job was paid $39 an hour. Officials say this is one of three lawsuits over violations of the Fair Pay for Women Act that the Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 applies to government employees.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A report has revealed that an oil refinery in southeast New Mexico is one of 10 facilities in the country releasing high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the HollyFrontier Navajo oil refinery in Artesia is emitting benzene levels four times the Environmental Protection Agency's action level, but is not violating federal law. Officials say that more than 3,000 people live within a mile of the refinery. Benzene is found in crude oil and used to manufacture plastics and pesticides. Federal health officials say prolonged exposure to the chemical can damage bone marrow, decrease red blood cells and lead to cancer.


LEMITAR, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Chile Association wants local chili pepper farmers to become state-certified amid more competition from foreign growers. Association president Glen Duggins told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this week farmers are seeing more foreign imports from as far as China or India. He says some of the imported chili peppers are sold under the New Mexico name. Meanwhile, Duggins says state farmers are moving to other more profitable crops. State officials are pressuring local farmers to get their peppers the "Certified New Mexico Chile" label by the New Mexico Chile Association. There are only five large farms that are certified out of about 20 across New Mexico.


PHOENIX (AP) — A Scottsdale man and his mother have been indicted for alleged wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Federal prosecutors say 52-year-old Frank Capri and 68-year-old Debbie Corvo of Cave Creek are accused of orchestrating the collapse of two county music branded restaurant chains in Arizona and across the country. Court documents show Capri was arrested Wednesday and later arraigned in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. He entered a plea of not guilty. According to the Arizona Republic, Capri's company built 20 Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill restaurants beginning in 2009. The newspaper says 19 restaurants closed in about 18 months, and Capri also was behind the financial ruin of 19 Rascal Flatts restaurant projects. 


BELEN, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico couple is facing charges over accusations they illegally imported exotic animals, including a mountain lion and kangaroo, for film productions. Kip and Chelsey Lewis are facing multiple charges of unlawful importation of a nondomestic live animal after New Mexico Department of Game and Fish agents raided their home in December 2018. According to court documents, Chelsey Lewis altered documents for the animals, and Kip Lewis lied about the locations of the animals. Agents also found in the couple's possession a capuchin monkey, a coyote, a prairie dog, a skunk, an American alligator, and a raccoon. Their attorney, Jason Alarid, did not immediately return a message.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Fifty years after President Richard Nixon returned a sacred lake and breathtaking mountain wilderness to Native American control, New Mexico state lawmakers are seeking to preserve the political backstory. Indigenous leaders say the return of Blue Lake to the people of Taos Pueblo in 1970 represented a significant milestone in the 20th century Indian rights movement. Newly proposed state legislation would set aside funds to preserve photos and documents from the struggle by Taos Pueblo leaders to reclaim ancestral lands. It would also fund a documentary film and help create educational programs.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — County officials in New Mexico have changed some of their internal procedures after acknowledging that Bernalillo County lost about $447,000 as a result of an online scam. The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that scammers targeted one of the 1,472 registered vendors listed on the county website's transparency portal. Officials say the county expects to maintain transparency by keeping contracts visible, but a list of vendor names has been removed from the site. Officials say the procedural changes require vendors to contact the county directly for changes to their profiles. Officials say the Risk Management Department is currently working with the county's insurance carrier to recoup the loss.


ZUNI PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) — Housing units designed for teachers to alleviate a teacher shortage on a Native American pueblo in western New Mexico are posing hazards and are in dire need of repairs. The Gallup Independent reports that teacher housing on Zuni Pueblo have poor foundations, lack of erosion control mechanisms, and need updated pipes. The Zuni Public School District has a total of 86 homes for teachers in its inventory. These homes include 36 houses built north of Zuni High School in 2002 by an Albuquerque company that installed overhead plumbing with little to no insulation. The structures were built without taking into consideration Zuni Pueblo's particular needs and location.