FARMINGTON — Bobby Willis returned to San Juan County Wednesday morning to answer to charges of embezzlement and racketeering after a three-month extradition battle in Missouri.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office was responsible for transporting Willis back to San Juan County. He is currently being held at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.
San Juan County Deputy Chief District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said state law requires that a new hearing be scheduled within 10 days of his return to the county, unless the defendant waives that right.
Attorney John Day is one of two lawyers representing Willis, who was charged in August 2012 with five felony counts of embezzlement, one felony count of racketeering, one felony count of fraud and one felony count of securities fraud.
Day said he will consult with his client and will then make a determination on whether to waive the 10-day rule.
O'Brien said the lengthy extradition battle, which began on March 22 when Willis was arrested in Branson, Mo., for failing to make a court appearance in San Juan County, could have an impact on his office's case.
"It can make putting the case together more difficult, because we are that much farther from the incident," O'Brien said. "The only issue is going to be the fact that memories diminish over time."
Day said his client was entitled to the extradition hearings he requested in Taney County, and he did not expect the 13-week delay and extradition would impact the criminal case.
Taney County prosecutor Tony Brown said last week that Willis' lengthy extradition was "highly unusual."
"Most people waive extradition," Brown said.
Missouri Attorney Dee Wampler filed a motion to dismiss the extradition case in late May, arguing that it did not appear that a governor's warrant would be issued. The warrant was issued last week. Wampler and co-counsel Joe Allen have also filed motions challenging Willis' bond and the transportation methods used by law enforcement to return Willis to New Mexico.
Since moving to Missouri, Willis has received treatment for several small strokes, as well as hypertension, according to Daily Times archives. Willis' attorneys had requested that their client be transported by vehicle, rather than plane, citing his high blood pressure. That motion was denied by a Taney County judge, but Willis was nonetheless brought to San Juan by ground transport, according to the sheriff's office.
Willis, the former owner of New Mexico Title Company, is accused of bilking local investors out of millions of dollars through phony business deals, according to a probable cause statement. Investor Mike Atchison allegedly lost $1.5 million after investing in a plan for a massive hospital complex in Kirtland that was never built. Willis is also accused of stealing more than $5 million worth of gemstones entrusted to him by investors and pilfering an escrow account belong to a subsidiary of New Mexico Title Co.