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Nev. homebuilder convicted of looting Navajo funds

Ken Ritter, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A federal jury in Las Vegas found a Nevada-based homebuilder guilty of siphoning federal money designated for building affordable homes in the Navajo Nation to pay for gambling, furs, jewelry and thoroughbred racehorse training.

William Aubrey, 69, of Mesquite, could face up to 10 years in federal prison and $500,000 in fines following his conviction Thursday on two counts of conversion of money and funds from a tribal organization, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said.

"The Navajo Nation counted on the monies stolen by the defendant to provide housing for its members," Bogden said in a statement. "This defendant stole from the tribe and from the American people, and used the monies to finance an extravagant lifestyle."

Aubrey's lawyer, Michael Kennedy, said he was pleased Aubrey was acquitted of conspiracy and bribery charges, and said he is considering an appeal.

The jury heard about two weeks of testimony and deliberated more than two days before acquitting a co-defendant, Chester Carl, of conspiracy and bribery charges. The two men were indicted in May 2009.

Carl's attorney, Todd Leventhal, said his client, the former chief executive of the Navajo Housing Authority, hopes to get his job back.

The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Navajo Housing Authority in Window Rock, Ariz., issued a statement Friday blaming Carl for "many disruptions" that it said caused housing developments to be delayed, families to be uprooted, projects to be abandoned and demolished, and people to be left without homes.

"All of this has moved us to reform the organization to ensure there is accountability, transparency, and tight internal controls to ensure that these events will not occur again," it said.

The authority received and administered federal Housing and Urban Development grants that Bogden said averaged about $90 million a year.

Aubrey owned a company called Lodgebuilder that contracted from 1996 to 2004 with the Navajo nonprofit Fort Defiance Housing Corp. to build homes in Chilchinbeto, Ariz., and Shiprock, N.M., and near Church Rock, N.M.

Bogden said the hundreds of thousands of dollars Aubrey allegedly spent on himself was supposed to have been used to pay builders, vendors and subcontractors.

Aubrey is due for sentencing Aug. 7.


Find Ken Ritter at https://twitter.com/krttr . Associated Press writer Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Ariz., also contributed to this report.