Accuser: “Forced to resign when I had to choose between keeping my job and committing crimes.”
Zach DeGriego, Spaceport America’s former Chief Financial Officer, filed a civil complaint last week in First Judicial District Court against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham regarding alleged fraud of $200 million.
“I’ve never spoken about this publicly until now, but the continued retaliation from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her staff has forced me to make this statement to set the record straight,” DeGriego said in a video statement.
“Many of you know I was the former chief financial officer of Spaceport America in New Mexico. I left that position after making multiple whistleblower complaints. I was forced to resign when I had to choose between keeping my job and committing crimes. After the governor and her staff got rid of me they have done everything in their power to retaliate against me and destroy my life to keep me silent.”
“At the same time, they proceeded to violate multiple federal laws. Today, I have filed a lawsuit against the State of New Mexico for violations of the New Mexico whistleblower protection act and malfeasance by the state auditor.”
“The complaint names 21 individuals who participated in a conspiracy including leaders at the highest levels of state government including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Attorney General Hector Balderas, New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón, Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes, and current managers at Spaceport America.”
New Mexico Spaceport Authority, an agency of the State of New Mexico, is the operator of Spaceport America. It is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. The FAA-licensed launch complex is situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range.
News reports surfaced this week alleged:
🔹Grisham political appointee, Alicia Keyes, encouraged DeGriego (who worked for Spaceport American from 2015 to 2020) to falsify an economic impact study.
🔹Keyes mishandled a bond refinancing for the purpose of defrauding the state.
🔹When DeGriego attempted to report the wrongdoing, he claimed, he was threatened with investigations and a firing.
“The complaint provides evidence of extortion, bribery, illegal drug use, sex discrimination, procurement fraud, securities fraud, and multiple violations of federal law. The complaint describes how after I left, the defendants proceeded to commit over $200 million in fraud when they issued bonds under false pretenses with disclosure documents containing fraudulent information.”
🔹DeGriego resigned from his position at the company in June 2020, shortly after he filed a complaint alleging that Spaceport America Executive Director Daniel Hicks violated several state laws.
🔹In the lawsuit, DeGriego adds that Hicks attempted to break into his email account and accessed emails DeGriego sent to Keyes about Hicks’ involvement in alleged procurement fraud.
In 2020, Hicks was placed on administrative leave in June, and fired in October following an investigation.
Spaceport Authority employees told investigators that Hicks repeatedly referred to the taxpayer-funded New Mexico Spaceport Authority as “my agency” and the budget as “my money.”
The review found that Hicks routinely ignored statutes and regulations as he awarded contracts, hired friends for key positions, and traveled around the nation to conferences, meetings and other events. Specifically, the report claims that Hicks:
- spent more than $60,000 on travel after he was named to run the spaceport in November 2016;
- failed to get travel authorization from the governor’s office for 33 separate trips that cost $32,404;
- overspent on hotels, airfares and other travel expenses;
- submitted falsified and backdated travel documentation;
- spent $3,100 traveling around the country for a week to attend events marking 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing without any apparent benefit to the spaceport;
- spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel and other expenses attempting to attract orbital launch services even though the spaceport could not host them for safety reasons;
- gave himself a substantial raise that had never been approved by the Spaceport Authority’s Board of Directors;
- considered the Board of Directors a “nuisance” to which he had no obligation to provide contracts or requests for proposals for review;
- hired friends without going through the required competitive process; and,
- inappropriately accessed DeGriego’s email after the complaint was filed.
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