FARMINGTON — Bobby Willis, the former owner of New Mexico Title Co., is in Missouri wearing a court-ordered ankle bracelet, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Willis, who has been charged with multiple counts of embezzlement, fraud, securities fraud and racketeering, posted as bond three San Juan County properties valued at just over $1 million. He is staying in the Branson, Mo., area.
His attorneys say Willis did nothing wrong.
“We believe we can secure his appearance and prevent him from being a danger to the community by knowing where he is at all times,” said Dustin O'Brien, an assistant district attorney.
Prosecutors and Willis' attorneys agreed to the arrangement where Willis will not be incarcerated, but can remain in Missouri pending a preliminary hearing.
The attorneys said Willis suffered several “small strokes” that necessitated medical treatment and prevented him from traveling to Farmington.
“He was never a flight risk,” said John W. Day, a Santa Fe attorney representing Willis. “He was being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for a life-threatening illness.”
Willis has fully complied with court requirements, Day said.
O'Brien said the cost of Willis' medical treatment was a factor in not bringing him to San Juan County, where taxpayers would foot the bill.
Farmington police last summer searched properties in Branson linked to Willis. The searches revealed three large safes, multiple firearms and ammunition magazines, and several cell phones.
A preliminary hearing date has not been set.
“We are in the process of scheduling some meetings,” O'Brien said. “The defense wants to present us some evidence prior to proceeding.”
The charges against Willis stem from an investor, Mike Atchison, who said Willis took more than $1.5
million that Atchison had invested in a dubious plan to build a massive hospital complex in Kirtland.
Atchison eventually grew suspicious of Willis' plan but was not able to get his money back when he demanded it, according to an affidavit.
Authorities also suspect Willis of embezzling more than $5 million in gemstones and jewelry from another business partner.
The charges are not directly related to New Mexico Title Co., a Farmington business that closed in January 2012 amid customer complaints of missing money.
A state-appointed receiver is still investigating the collapse of that business and a related escrow business. The firms were legally separate but investigations have uncovered significant operational overlap. Willis was one of a series of owners.
The investigation by receiver Darryl Millet indicated “gross mismanagement” of the business, according to an early report. More than $100,000 in cash and checks were found in file drawers. Hundreds of customer accounts were called into question.
The New Mexico Title investigation has yet to wrap up, O'Brien said.
“With respect to what was done at the title company, that investigation's not done yet,” he said. “If charges come from that, they'll come later.”
Day said Willis sold New Mexico Title before the business collapsed.