Senate Hearing Delves Into Indian-Art Fraud, Suit Claims New Mexico Inmates Don't Have Enough Space

Jul 7, 2017

Senate Hearing Delves Into Indian-Art FraudAssociated Press

Former U.S. Senator and jewelry maker Ben Knighthorse-Campbell has dropped in on a Senate hearing in New Mexico about ways to prevent counterfeit Indian arts and crafts.

Knighthorse-Campbell said Friday that enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act has grown more complex since the 1990s.

He says disputes about who qualifies as an Indian artist can complicate law enforcement efforts. Collaborative artwork involving Native American and non-Indian artists also present challenges.

Efforts to prevent the sale of counterfeit tribal art and jewelry will be the focus of testimony as two U.S. senators hold a field hearing in New Mexico about protecting legitimate American Indian artists and markets from fraudulent goods.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich plan to gather suggestions Friday from top federal officials responsible for enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

The act makes it a crime to falsely market and sell art as Native American-made when it is not. Calls to modernize enforcement provisions have been spurred by revelations about the spread of fake Indian art.

Federal prosecutors in New Mexico are preparing for trial in an ambitious investigation that traced falsified Native American art from the Philippines to galleries across the United States.

Suit Claims New Mexico Inmates Don't Have Enough Space – Associated Press

New Mexico prisoner representatives have filed a lawsuit claiming four state prisons are in violation of a prisoner personal space deal.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the representatives filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court, claiming the four prisons are in violation of the Duran Consent Decree, which guarantees each inmate at least 60 square feet (5.6 square meters) of "living and sleeping space."

The suit claims the prisons have reduced inmate space by adding extra bunks to single cells and have crowded prisoners into small dormitories. It also claims the prisons are housing prisoners in spaces not intended for living.

Gov. Susana Martinez is the suit's lead defendant.

Corrections Department spokesman S.U. Mahesh says the claims are either wrong or have been addressed.

Feds To Review Behavioral Health Care Access In New Mexico Associated Press

The investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to review the level of access that New Mexicans have to behavioral health services through the Medicaid program.

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation made the request earlier this year.

The inquiry will be one of a handful being conducted by the agency's inspector general.

New Mexico's behavioral health system was upended in 2013 when Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration froze payments to 15 nonprofits that provided services to the state's most needy residents after an audit raised questions about fraud and abuse.

Some providers were forced to close. Others were replaced by out-of-state companies.

An investigation by the state attorney general's office eventually found only regulatory violations and no patterns of fraud among the nonprofits.

Grand Canyon National Park: Water Pipeline Needs Replacement Associated Press

Grand Canyon National Park officials are planning to replace much of the decades-old, problem-plagued pipeline that crosses the canyon to supply water to hotels, campgrounds and other facilities on the popular South Rim.

Crews regularly have to descend into the canyon by trail or helicopter to fix costly breaks to the 6-inch aluminum pipe from rockslides. The park periodically imposes water conservation measures and has had to temporarily restrict visitor services until repairs are complete.

The National Park Service is seeking public comment on the project before reviewing its possible impact on the environment. Officials are considering replacing the entire 12.5-mile (20.12 -kilometer) pipeline serving the South Rim or just replacing about one-third of it.

The current pipeline was constructed in the 1960s and Olson says it has already outlasted its designed 40 years of use.

Coal Found Buried At Gallup Skate Park Site Delays Progress Associated Press

The unearthing of a thick layer of coal at the site of Gallup's soon-to-be skate park has put a hold on construction.

The Gallup Independent reports officials had no idea there was coal and other materials buried when they started construction on the skate park last summer.

Public Works Director Stan Henderson says the coal and other materials found are from "way back yonder" when coal used to be loaded and unloaded in the area.

Creosote, a carcinogen and tar-like substance used to seal wood in railroad ties, and diesel were also found at the site.

Henderson says the cost to remove the hazardous material could be more than $100,000.

He says the goal is still to have the park completed by Labor Day.

Hobbs Police Trained To Use Overdose Antidote Associated Press

A police department in southeastern New Mexico is the latest to join the ranks of law enforcement agencies armed with a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses.

The Hobbs Police Department announced Thursday that it has trained all of its commissioned personnel in the use of naloxone and has supplied each with two doses to have on hand while on duty.

New Mexico became the first U.S. state this year to require all local and state law enforcement agencies to provide officers with antidote kits as the state works to curb deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses.

Hobbs officials say the increased response time that officers may have prior to the arrival of paramedics could be the difference between life and death for someone experiencing an overdose.

New Mexico Wildfire Near Albuquerque Smaller Than EstimatedAssociated Press

A wildfire continues to burn on a mountain range overlooking Albuquerque but officials say it is significantly smaller than initially estimated.

Cibola National Forest spokeswoman Donna Nemeth says officials initially thought the fire in the Sandia Crest area had grown to 20 acres (8 hectares) but that its size was estimated Friday at 5 acres (2 hectares).

Nemeth says the fire is burning numerous dead standing trees and other fuel. Its smoke can be seen from Albuquerque and the surrounding area.

The fire was first reported Thursday and it is burning within a mile of communications towers. Nemeth says crews are clearing vegetation to help protect that infrastructure.

No residential evacuations have been initiated but a popular viewing spot, a trail and a road have been closed.

Retrial Of Ex-Deputy In Las Cruces Killing Set For AprilAssociated Press

A trial date next April has been set for a former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy whose first two murder trials in the killing of another deputy ended in mistrials when juries couldn't agree on a verdict.

The third trial of ex-Deputy Tai Chan is set for April 9 in state District Court in Las Cruces.

Chan has testified he fatally shot fellow deputy Jeremy Martin in self-defense at a Las Cruces hotel in 2014 during a work trip.

Search Resumes For Missing New Mexico Climber Near AspenAssociated Press

Volunteers haven't given up the search for a New Mexico man who failed to return from climbing mountains in the Aspen area last fall.

Members of Mountain Rescue Aspen looked for 49-year-old David Cook of Albuquerque from the air on Thursday around Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak but didn't find any sign of him.

The Aspen Times reports it was the first in a series of aerial searches planned for the area. The next is scheduled later this month.

Searchers spent eight days searching for Cook in late September. He set out Sept. 19 and was last seen by a U.S. Forest Service employee the following day near Maroon Lake.

Maps found in Cook's car show possible routes he may have taken up the peaks.