The man arrested last night as a suspect in the shooting of Garland Taylor, an Albuquerque Realtor and church deacon, has a checkered past of financial improprieties and financial instability.
The suspect, Mario Lucas Chavez, is being held on an open count of murder at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, with a cash-only bond set at $2 million. Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said today that since the office released a photo of Chavez, the office has been “inundated with calls from people implicating him in a variety of (alleged) white-collar crimes.” White also confirmed that the department has received information that Chavez “may have been involved in securities fraud here in New Mexico.”
White said Chavez has apparently not been previously charged with violent crimes or convicted for violent crimes. Taylor, 74, reportedly died from a single gunshot wound. His body was found Monday night in a home that he had reportedly shown earlier that day. He served as a listing agent for the vacant luxury home, which carried a list price of $910,000.
Chavez worked from 1999-2002 as a securities dealer, but was barred from the industry association after an investigation found that he took money from a customer that was intended for an investment. According to the investigation, Chavez diverted a check for $5,053.24 and took $6,050 in cash from a customer’s $22,103.24 investment. He “retained possession of these funds and used them for his own personal use and benefit,” according to New Mexico Securities Division records.
Also, Chavez reportedly provided for the preparation and delivery of an account statement “to conceal from the customer that he had taken their funds and used them for his personal benefit,” and he “failed to respond to NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) requests for information.”
Chavez had worked as a general securities dealer in the office of NY Life Securities Inc. in Albuquerque from November 2000 to April 22, 2002. “His contract with the company was terminated by the company,” said William Werfelman, a spokesman for NY Life. According to a complaint on record with the National Association of Securities Dealers, the company “terminated (Chavez) following its review of an allegation that he had accepted customer funds and falsely told the customer that he had invested them at another firm.”
The association’s enforcement division attempted to locate Chavez but he reportedly “failed to respond to requests for information.” On Dec. 2003, a “default decision” was rendered in which “Mario Chavez is barred from association with any NASD member firm in any capacity.” That decision became final on Jan. 29, 2004.
An Albuquerque property formerly owned by Chavez and his wife was foreclosed in 2003. That property, on Sierra Vista Court in Albuquerque, went into foreclosure last year. Michael J. Broder, a Realtor with VIP Realty in Albuquerque who is the current owner of the home, said he has in the past received some mail that was addressed to Chavez, including mail from the securities dealers’ association. “That’s the guy who lived in my house,” he said. Chavez and his wife were also involved in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings in 2002.
According to court documents, Chavez and his wife reportedly may have lived in Tucson, Ariz. And investigators are looking into reports that Chavez may have been married to two women. Court records state that Chavez may also have used the name Mario L. Martinez in the past.
Bernalillo County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Erin Kinnard said that Chavez may have contacted other Realtors in the Albuquerque area and the owners of high-priced vehicles who were attempting to sell their vehicles, and in some cases may have introduced himself as a corporate lawyer from Arizona. Kinnard said that this pattern of contacting car owners and Realtors is believed to have occurred “over the last several weeks.”
Connie Kounas, an associate broker for Coldwell Banker Legacy’s sales office in Albuquerque who worked with Taylor years ago and attended his funeral service this morning, said that when she heard the news that a suspect had been arrested “all I could do was to thank god and the Sheriff’s department for all of their hard work these past few days. To me it was a blessing knowing that there may be some comfort for the family, and maybe there will be some answers.”
She added, “However, it is still very painful for the real estate community. Many Realtor friends who I talked with after the funeral all said the same thing: We have to change the way we do business now. This is a wake-up call for all of us.”
Local real estate groups had established a $10,000 reward fund earlier this week for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Garland’s killer.
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