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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Former Eddy County department head arrested for gas card fraud

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CARLSBAD — Eddy County’s former director of Community Services was arrested Wednesday on multiple felony charges relating to the fraudulent use of government gas cards.

In a release issued Wednesday evening by the county, it was stated that Wesley Hooper, who resigned his position earlier this year, was arrested following an Eddy County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) investigation. The investigation was initiated after the county discovered, during standard internal accounting duties, “some anomalous expenses related to travel reimbursements and paid fueling charges.”

Hooper’s charges include 16 fourth-degree felonies: 13 counts of making or permitting a false public voucher, two counts of identity theft, and one count of fraud (over $500 but not more than $2,500). He was also charged with three petty misdemeanor counts of fraud ($250 or less).

According to the criminal complaint, Hooper on multiple occasions claimed travel reimbursements for his personal vehicle — which he was not using — while also utilizing his county gas card. Under county policy, employees are allowed to do either of those things but not both.

He also allegedly used gas cards belonging to other county employees, which required the use of PIN numbers that comprise a portion of those employees’ Social Security numbers.

Between August 2022 and February of this year, Hooper is alleged to have charged more than $4,000 to the cards.

Hooper has entered not guilty pleas to all 19 charges. He is scheduled to appear for preliminary examination before Judge Kelly J. Calicoat at 9 a.m. Aug. 2 in Carlsbad Magistrate Court.

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