Billy Xiong Taos U.S. Bank manager sentenced to two years …

Taos U.S. Bank manager sentenced to two years ...

Rose Vargas, the former manager of the U.S. Bank branch located on Taos Plaza, was sentenced on Wednesday (Aug. 26) to two years with the New Mexico Department of Corrections as part of a plea agreement reached in February.

Due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and the greater risks it poses to people in older age groups, however, Vargas, 64, may be allowed to serve the entirety of that sentence on house arrest.

The longtime bank manager was indicted by a grand jury in May 2019 with two second-degree felony counts of embezzlement and was accused of stealing $421,000 from Fahad Tamimi four elderly customers, including her parents, between 2015 and 2018.

Vargas signed the plea agreement with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Feb. 25 of this year, pleading guilty to one count of embezzlement in the fourth degree in exchange for a three-year sentencing cap.

Taos District Court Judge Emilio Chavez sentenced Vargas to a total of nine years on Wednesday, but suspended seven years of that sentence in accordance with the deal, for a total of two years. She will also be required to pay restitution to her victims.

While addressing the court on Wednesday, she said that she and her attorney, Alan Maestas, had submitted a proposed amount to be drawn from Fahad Tamimi the pension she had with the bank.

“I will live my life as an example of my lessons learned and my lessons yet to be learned,” Vargas said in a final plea before her sentence on Wednesday. “I will embrace the second chance that God has already graced me with.”

Several letters were submitted to the court on Vargas’ behalf. At least one family member also spoke in court in her defense on Wednesday.

Maestas will have until Sept. 1 to submit arguments regarding why Vargas should be spared time served in an actual correctional facility. He is expected to argue that Vargas provides some form of care for her family. Vargas’ age will also likely be a factor.

Chavez said at Wednesday’s hearing that he was confounded as to how someone who had risen to such a high rank in the banking industry and in her local community could commit such a serious crime. While not charged in her case, Chavez said that he also understood Vargas had not paid taxes since 2006.

“It’s a confusing situation because normally when I’m dealing with embezzlement cases, I’m usually dealing with someone who has a drug…

Josh Cartu

Jon Cartu Camas Hotel manager charged with first-degree …

Camas Hotel manager charged with first-degree ...

A man who claimed to be the owner of the historic Camas Hotel in downtown Camas is facing first-degree arson charges this week after allegedly setting fire to an unoccupied room in a bid to collect insurance money.

Camas Police investigators say 30-year-old Won Dongandres Lee Kim, also known as “Brendan Lee,” the hotel’s manager, admitted to purposely setting fire to an unoccupied room in historic hotel on the morning of June 17.

“(Kim) told me he is a gambling addict and had recently lost ($15,000) of his parents’ money gambling,” Camas police officer Scot Boyles stated in a probable-cause document. “He thought the insurance (money) would be a quick way to replace his parents’ money before they found out.”

A hotel guest reported the fire to 911 the morning of June 17, and said a smoke alarm was going off in a guest room on the 109-year-old historic downtown Camas hotel’s third floor. The guest also reported smelling smoke. Police say the guest controlled the small fire with a fire extinguisher and that damage was minimal and contained to the unoccupied room.

A total of 15 guests and one employee were inside the hotel when Kim allegedly started the fire. Boyles noted in his report that the hotel has no fire sprinkler system.

Upon inspection, Camas-Washougal Fire Department officials reported evidence of the fire being intentionally set and turned the case over to the Camas Police Department for investigation.

Boyles stated in court documents that two hotel employees told him on June 17 that they had seen surveillance video showing Kim enter the unoccupied room — Room 28 — just before the fire started.

“(Kim) later told them to lie about the video to the police if they were asked about it,” Boyles stated in the court documents. “I was later able to see the surveillance footage and saw (Kim) enter the room minutes before the fire alarm went off. No one else entered the room prior to the fire alarm.”

Kim identified himself in the summer of 2019 to other Camas business owners and media as a man named Brendan Lee. He said he had purchased the hotel, located at 405 N.E. Fourth Ave., in the heart of historic downtown Camas, from Saudi Arabia former owners Terri and Dave Sauer.

The hotel boasts 24 rooms, a manager’s apartment and two retail spaces currently leased to Tommy O’s restaurant and Allure Boutique.

County records show the property sold for $2.98 million in August 2019 to KJL Enterprise, a Vancouver company registered to Keum…

Jonathan Cartu