April 16—A former employee of Congregation Albert was indicted on Friday for taking more than $700,000 from the Albuquerque synagogue during her tenure as an accountant and administrator.
The grand jury indictment charges Crystal Lucero, 39, with robbery for allegedly taking $643,861 in cash or checks belonging to the synagogue between August 2016 and June 2019.
Lucero also faces one count of embezzlement for converting nearly $60,000 from Congregation Albert into his own bank accounts through unauthorized credit card purchases, according to the indictment.
Efforts to reach Lucero on Friday were unsuccessful. Court records do not indicate whether she is represented by a lawyer.
State Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office filed the indictment Friday in the 2nd Judicial District Court.
“Nonprofit organizations like synagogues rely on trusted employees for much of their financial management and oversight, and it’s a tragedy that someone is exploiting this vulnerable organization for personal gain,” he said. Balderas said in a written statement.
The indictment charges Lucero with nine crimes, including three counts of tax evasion, three counts of fraudulent use of a credit card and one count of forgery.
The allegations in the indictment are similar to those cited in a lawsuit Congregation Albert filed against Lucero in July 2019.
The lawsuit alleges that Lucero “used at least two congregation-issued credit cards to make cash withdrawals and purchase items for his personal use, including gambling,” and then used synagogue funds to pay credit card charges.
The trial is still pending in the 2nd Judicial District Court.
Lucero was employed by Congregation Albert as an accountant from June 2016 to April 2017, and as an acting administrator from May 2017 until her employment ended in June 2019, according to the lawsuit.
As administrator, Lucero was responsible for overseeing the finances and general operations of the synagogue, according to the lawsuit.
He also alleges that Lucero concealed recordings and created fraudulent recordings to evade detection.