On Monday, Zach DeGriego, the former Chief Financial Officer of Spaceport America from December 21, 2015, to June 21, 2020, announced he had filed a civil complaint in the First Judicial District Court against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham over an 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 Keys, and current managers at Spaceport America.”
“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.”
“The last governor in the United States who was impeached was Gov. Blagojevich [of Illinois]. He was arrested and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for a whole lot less than this. Now, I realize that I’m just one person going up against the most rich and powerful people in the state of New Mexico. And I realize that these people have virtually unlimited taxpayer dollars that they will continue to use to attack me. But here’s what I believe: I believe that one person can make a difference in this world and I believe it’s important to stand up for what is right.”
“I’m Zach DeGregorio, certified public accountant, and you, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, you are a crook.”
The 261-page complaint filed by DeGregorio includes 41 exhibits showing documented proof of alleged wrongdoing and carefully strings together facts and figures from his time of employment at Spaceport America.
DeGregorio, who is is referred to in the complaint as “DG” wrote in the complaint, “The employees at the NM Spaceport Authority are too scared to speak up out of fear of retaliation. If they did not comply, they would be maliciously attacked, just like the board member Rick Holdridge, who was illegally removed from the board by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham when he objected to the investigation.”
Regarding Lujan Grisham’s appointee, Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keys,DeGregorio alleges conflicts of interest with the film industry, where Keys allegedly attempted to falsify reports to show Spaceport America in worse financial shape and sabotage the large project in order to bolster the film industry instead.
“Alicia Keyes continued to work against the interest of the NM Spaceport Authority with regards to the Spaceport Gross Receipts Tax bonds. At the request of the NM Spaceport Authority board, ZD had been researching alternatives to refinance the bonds (last reported value of $47M in FY20). The date the Agency could exercise their option to refinance the bonds was 12/1/2020. ZD had been a vocal critic of refinancing with the current bond holders, the New Mexico Finance Authority, as there were many alternative options that would save the NM taxpayers millions of dollars,” the complaint reads.
The complaint alleges bribes taken by Lujan Grisham, claiming she violated the Anti-Donation Clause and bribery of a public officer (NMSA 30-24-1). “By holding secret meetings, Virgin Galactic was improperly attempting to influence the use of the Spaceport’s operational budget for their own benefit in exchange for benefits to the Governor during upcoming space operations,”DeGregorio writes.
“As further evidence of bribery and preferential treatment, it was reported in the press that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham received exclusive access and promotion during Richard Branson’s first spaceflight with Virgin Galactic on July 11, 2021. This launch was not open to the public except for the Governor and her VIP guests including former Governor Bill Richardson. This is evidence of a quid pro quo. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham gave Virgin Galactic the designation of ‘essential business’ and in return she got to attend a party with Richard Branson,” he added.
$200 Million in Fraud
“Additionally, the fraud also corrupts the NM Finance Authority’s PPRF loan portfolio. The NM Finance Authority released bond disclosure documents stating the PPRF bonds were backed by the revenue from The Spaceport Gross Receipts Tax bonds, without disclosing the material risks of the bonds or the fraudulent actions of the Defendants which involved the CEO of the NM Finance Authority Marquita Russel. The Spaceport Gross Receipts Tax bonds should be removed from the PPRF, and the PPRF restructured. This means that NM Finance Authority also has been issuing fraudulent statements in over $200 Million of their own PPRF bond issuances. Investors justifiably relied on the NM Finance Authority’s false statements which would have impacted the bond ratings from S&P and Moody’s,” the complaint reads.
The fraud alleged relied on board appointments only Lujan Grisham could approve, with the appointment of Alicia Keyes as Board Chair of the NM Spaceport Authority. “This action gave Alicia Keyes control over any future board votes because the three new members had only known Alicia Keyes as board chair and had no prior experience with Rick Holdridge as board chair.”
“The Defendants forced ZD to resign in a constructive discharge. The Defendants were afraid that ZD’s communications exposed over $200 million of securities fraud they were about to commit. The Defendants fraudulently procured consulting services of The McHard Firm to conduct a deeply flawed investigation,” the complaint concluded.
DeGregorio’s complaint goes over many other instances of alleged fraud, corruption, bribery, and retaliation. It can be accessed here. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office was reached for comment but has not yet responded.
The video fromDeGregorio can be seen here: