A house in the South Shiprock community is seen burned in May.  Today, the majority of the houses remain uncompleted and are severely damaged by vandalism.
A house in the South Shiprock community is seen burned in May. Today, the majority of the houses remain uncompleted and are severely damaged by vandalism. (The Daily Times file photo)

Farmington — The building contractor for 91 mostly unfinished homes on the south side of Shiprock has been sentenced to 51 months in federal prison.

William Aubrey was sentenced Tuesday by a federal judge in Nevada.

A hearing has been scheduled to determine how much restitution Aubrey would be ordered to pay.

Aubrey, 69, of Mesquite, Nev., was found guilty in May of taking money from the Navajo Housing Authority and spending it on gambling, furs, jewelry and thoroughbred horse training.

Chester Carl, a co-defendent and former NHA chief executive officer, was acquitted.

The South Shiprock housing project started in 2003 after Carl and the NHA granted the building contract to Aubrey.

The project stopped in 2005 after the contractor became embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings while also completing work under the former Fort Defiance Housing Corp., which at the time was a sub-recipient of NHA.

Today, the majority of the houses remain uncompleted and are severely damaged by vandalism.

In May, the NHA closed the bidding process to hire an architectural and engineering company to assist in demolishing the homes.

NHA public relations coordinator Christian Bigwater said there are plans to address the housing, but the complexity of the issue needs to be sorted first.

A press release the NHA issued Wednesday stated that the Northern Plains Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is asking for repayment of the $11 million it funded in fiscal year 2003 for the 91 houses.

The request is another repercussion of the business dealings between Aubrey and Carl, said NHA CEO Aneva Yazzie.

Yazzie became CEO of the NHA in February 2007.

"The public needs to understand that we have had to spend a lot of time cleaning up the mess of others," she said in the press release. "Because of what Aubrey, Carl and others did, people still point fingers at NHA management today. This has made us look bad in the eyes of the public, which all this happened before I came on board."

She said the NHA intends to respond to HUD's request within the required time frame.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.