Bobby Willis
Bobby Willis (Courtesy of Taney County Sheriff's Office)

AZTEC — Bobby Willis' attorneys on Monday requested that their wheelchair-bound client be placed under house arrest rather than being held in jail, citing health concerns.

Attorney Mark Curnutt said in a motion that Willis, 42, has a history of medical issues, including multiple strokes, cardiac disease and hypertension. The motion was considered at an arraignment hearing in district court.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Sanchez is leading the prosecution of Willis, who was charged in August 2012 with multiple counts of embezzlement, fraud and racketeering in San Juan County.

Sanchez opposed the motion to allow conditional release and said an unidentified victim attending the hearing did as well.

A medical report filed with the motion seems to indicate that Willis was admitted to a Branson, Mo., hospital in November 2013 complaining of weakness and difficulty with speech. His blood pressure was recorded at 229/145, the records state.

According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure higher than 180 systolic or 110 diastolic is an emergency and requires immediate treatment.

Willis was again transported by ambulance to the hospital in March for health problems, the report states.

Dr. Reed Click of Forsyth, Mo., said in a letter that Willis has sustained "major neurologic injury," including vision impairment, memory loss and loss of balance, due to suffering multiple strokes.

Judge William Birdsall requested at the arraignment that the U.S. Pretrial Services Office evaluate Willis and determine whether his condition warrants release.

"There are some indications of medical conditions, I grant you," he said.

Birdsall continued that if Willis' health is as poor as the defense states, "I am worried he is going to be as bad in (jail) as he is out."

Willis' ex-wife said in a letter to the court that she would be willing to put her properties up as bond if the judge would allow his release.

"I pray the court allows Bobby Willis to come home in order to spend time with his grandfather and family as time is precious and a lot of time has been lost already," she said.

Willis, the former owner of New Mexico Title Company and New Mexico Escrow Company, allegedly misled investors for a proposed multi-million dollar hospital project in Kirtland that never was built, according to a probable cause statement. He is also accused of embezzling more than $5 million in gemstones and jewelry entrusted to him by a former business partner and stealing from an escrow account that belonged to a subsidiary of New Mexico Title Co.

Dustin O'Brien, chief deputy for San Juan County's District Attorney's Office, said his office asked the New Mexico Attorney General's Office to prosecute the case because of its complexity.

"There are more than 20 bankers boxes full of documents that are available for us to review in assessing the case and determining charges," he said. "On top of that, there are records about other businesses that he was involved in that dwarf that number of documents."

Willis moved from Kirtland to Missouri in January, according to court records, and was placed under house arrest while awaiting trial. A warrant was issued for his arrest in February after he failed to make a court appearance. He was eventually arrested on March 22 on a $1 million bond.

He fought his extradition for three months before being brought back to San Juan County on June 25.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.