News Feature | October 16, 2017

Small Water Utility Fights Back After Alleged Theft Of $850,000

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

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After a former employee allegedly stole thousands of dollars from a New Mexico water utility, the company has decided to fight back.

“A state audit revealed Lori Whitaker, an office manager for the Otis Water Association, stole $850,000, much of it likely gambled away,” KRQE reported.

State Auditor Tim Keller “says he has never seen anything of this magnitude in a New Mexico rural utility embezzlement by an individual person,” KRQE reported. “The FBI was notified because federal funds may have been involved in some of the fraudulent transactions.”

The small water utility is taking legal action.

“The association is suing Whitaker in an effort to get that money back. Association Members say fortunately, they had some reserve funds to keep water service going in the meantime,” the report said.

Whitaker is the mother of Cutter Rogers, the utility’s general manager, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported. Rogers is not suspected of wrongdoing, KRQE reported. Rogers “vowed water customers would not see any interruptions in their service, or changes to their bills,” according to the report. He said the association has enough money to continue operating.

The utility reportedly pursued an insurance claim on its $500,000 policy, the report said.

“Formerly the Otis Water Co-op until 2006, the non-profit association serves about 4,000 residents and businesses in rural Eddy County, about five miles southeast of Carlsbad. The association has several wells and large water tanks, as well as water towers scattered across central Eddy County,” KRQE reported.

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