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Colorado man pleads guilty to money laundering in Arizona and New Mexico

A Federal court house. Mary Altaffer/AP File Photo
Man was involved in fraudulent scheme to get money from WildEarth Guardians

James Matison pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in a New Mexico federal court last week.

The 46-year-old from Pueblo, Colorado, remains on conditions of release pending sentencing, according to the office of the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico.

Matison served as the Program Director for Restoration Programs at WildEarth Guardians. It is a not-for-profit organization that received funding from New Mexico, the federal government, and other nonprofit organizations. It is unclear whether federal or state money was involved in the theft.

In his role, the man approved all Restoration Program project invoices submitted by contractors for payment.

One contractor was Timberline Environmental, LLC, a Colorado-based environmental company owned and operated by Matison’s co-defendant, Jeffrey Ham.

When Matison faced financial difficulties in 2015, he asked Ham to help him with a fraudulent scheme to get money from WildEarth Guardians.

Ham let Matison create fraudulent invoices from Timberline for submission to and payment from WildEarth Guardians. Matison then approved the payments, collected the checks, and deposited them into Timberline’s bank account.

Ham gave Matison pre-signed blank Timberline checks. Matison used them to write checks to an entity called Euro-American Development, an Arizona company he controlled.

Matison received $242,210 from WildEarth Guardians between 2015 and 2019 from the scheme.

As a part of his plea agreement, Matison faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Additionally, Jeffrey Ham pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in July. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum of $250,000 in fines.

The Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General and the Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General investigated this case, while Assistant United States Attorney Jeremy Peña is prosecuting it.

The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The Center Square is a project of the 501(c)(3) Franklin News Foundation, headquartered in Chicago.