Dividend Payments Targeted In NM Insurance Case, NM Forest Warns Against Drones During Aerial Survey

Jul 15, 2017

Dividend Payments Targeted In New Mexico Insurance Case Associated Press

New Mexico Auditor Tim Keller is asking state regulators to prevent health insurance companies from paying out dividends to shareholders or other investors pending an ongoing audit related to premium taxes.

The request announced by Keller's office on Friday is the latest development in a case centered on whether insurance companies are paying what's owed to the state when it comes to taxes on premiums and other surcharges.

Earlier this week, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas jumped into the fray with a lawsuit alleging that one of the state's largest health care providers underpaid its taxes by tens of millions of dollars over a 15-year period.

Officials with the Presbyterian health network dispute the allegations, saying they have been audited numerous times and have been working with state regulators to determine their tax liability.

New Mexico Forest Warns Against Drones During Aerial SurveysAssociated Press

The U.S. Forest Service is asking people not to fly drones over the Gila National Forest next week because the agency will be conducting aerial surveys for insect and disease outbreaks using low-flying planes and helicopters.

The annual survey work on the southwestern New Mexico forest will begin Monday.

Forest Service aircraft fly at or below 400 feet while on natural resource management missions. Officials say the combination of low-flying aircraft and drones can be deadly.

Gila Forest Supervisor Adam Mendonca is asking the public to work with the agency to help prevent any tragedies.

The data collected from the aerial surveys will be posted online. The most recent available data shows pockets of tree mortality around the Gila as well as pest damage across large swaths of the West.

Bernalillo County Buys More Trackers For Released Defendants Associated Press

Bernalillo County officials have ordered more GPS monitors for released defendants in response to new pretrial and detention rules handed down by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

KOAT-TV reported Thursday that the new rules went into effect on July 1. The rules are expected to increase the usage of GPS monitors on released defendants instead of holding them in jail or offering bond. This means suspects who commit minor offenses can be released automatically without having to pay a bond, in some cases.

Commissioner Wayne Johnson says the county ordered 35 more trackers for defendants that will arrive next week.

Trackers used by regular defendants cost the county about $4 per day, whereas trackers used by defendants involved with alcohol-related crimes cost the county about $6 a day.

Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal Of Former Deputy's Lawsuit Associated Press

An appellate court has upheld a judge's dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former Roosevelt County sheriff's deputy who claimed he was wrongfully terminated.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Wednesday upholds a magistrate judge who dismissed Robert Ellison's suit alleging his firing violated his constitutional rights to free speech, due process and equal protection.

Ellison contends he was fired after he was falsely accused of mishandling a traffic stop and related arrest and after he reported alleged wrongdoing by another deputy.

The 10th Circuit says Ellison's report of the other deputy's alleged wrongdoing was part of his official duties and not free speech protected from discipline.

The ruling also said a supervisor's criticism of Ellison's handling of the traffic stop and arrest didn't violate Ellison's rights.

Texas Man Killed In New Mexico When SUV Hits His Motorcycle Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say a Texas man has died after his motorcycle collided with a car.

Police say the fatal accident occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Friday on State Road 404 in the small Dona Ana County community of Chaparral.

They say 42-year-old Mark Sharples, of Anthony, was hit by an SUV that crossed the road into oncoming traffic.

Police say Sharples was pronounced dead at the scene.

They say the driver of the SUV suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital in El Paso, Texas.

Police say the fatal crash is under investigation.

Arizona Man Accused Of Assaulting FBI Officer In New Mexico Associated Press

An Arizona man has been arrested in New Mexico on a federal complaint charging him with assault on a peace officer and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

FBI officials say 39-year-old Zachary Stephen Reeder of Marana is expected to appear Monday in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces.

It was unclear Friday if he has a lawyer yet.

He was arrested Thursday night after a car chase in Las Cruces by law enforcement investigating a report of a possibly armed and dangerous suspect in a stolen vehicle.

During the pursuit, Reeder's car allegedly rammed a vehicle driven by an FBI task force officer.

After executing search warrants on Reeder's car and the hotel room he rented, Las Cruces police investigators reported finding a shotgun, handgun and methamphetamine.

New Feature Film "Arizona" Is Being Shot In New Mexico Associated Press

A film office says a new feature called "Arizona" has completed its shooting nearly 350 miles away in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Film Office announced that the movie produced by Rough House Pictures and Imperative Entertainment was filmed in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.

Imperative Entertainment spokeswoman Alyssa McGovern says producers of the film are not yet releasing its plotline, genre or reason for shooting the movie in New Mexico.

The film office says the production employed 115 crew members, 12 principal actors and about 50 people for background talent all from New Mexico.

New Mexico incentivizes movie companies to film within its borders by offering a 25 to 30 percent refundable film production tax credit.

The movie stars Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt and Luke Wilson.