Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Pyramid Schemes Targeted.

Byline: Morgan Lee Journal Northern Bureau

Gov. Asks for Survey Of State's Agencies

SANTA FE Suspected pyramid schemes that recruit financial contributors with displays of cash have lured in state employees, prompting internal investigations, the departure of two employees in one department and a request from Gov. Gary Johnson for a governmentwide assessment.

Professing sisterly philanthropy, women's "gifting circles" in New Mexico have asked for donations as large as $5,000 and delivered up to $40,000 to veteran recruiters who advanced to the top of a pyramid-shaped organizational chart, according to one state employee who was solicited at her office.

New Mexico law, though, makes it a felony to participate in "pyramid promotional schemes," in which a donation provides the chance to receive more donations from new recruits described by prosecutors as a vicious cycle that can expand exponentially but collapse immediately without new members.

Law-enforcement authorities sounded the pyramid alarm last year as reports of gifting circles spread across the state, with one criminal investigation leading to the arrest in February and March of five women in southern New Mexico.

State government administrators now are examining whether state employees participated in pyramid schemes while on the job or using state equipment, and whether they recruited or pressured co-workers and subordinates to join. …

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