Willis requests delay of his wire fraud trial

Steve Garrison
Bobby Willis

FARMINGTON — Local businessman Bobby Willis has requested that his trial on federal charges of wire fraud — scheduled to begin on Jan. 11 — be delayed while he reviews evidence in the case.

Willis' attorney, Todd Hotchkiss, states in the unopposed motion filed in U.S. District Court on Dec. 22 that the delay is necessary due to the voluminous amount of evidence in the case and a prior scheduling conflict.

Hotchiss said federal prosecutors have thus far turned over gigabytes of data related to the allegations that Willis, 43, stole nearly $1 million from Joseph and Theresa Lee through a phony investment scheme.

Hotchiss states in the motion that Willis has suffered from seizures and strokes, which have caused him to become legally blind and unable to review the legal documents without the assistance of his attorney.

Hotchkiss states he is also scheduled to represent a separate client at trial beginning on Jan. 11.  He said once that trial is completed, he can begin to review evidence in Willis' case, according to the motion.

"It appears that once counsel begins to review the discovery in this matter counsel will have to make many, many trips to San Juan County where Defendant is residing to visit him and review the discovery," Hotchkiss states in the motion.

Hotchkiss could not be reached for comment Tuesday. U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo has not yet ruled on the motion.

Willis was indicted Oct. 20 on two counts of wire fraud related to investments that appear to be at the heart of a separate civil lawsuit filed by the Lees against Willis in  April 2014.

The Lees allege in the lawsuit that they used their retirement savings to invest $1 million in the construction of a veterans administration hospital in Kirtland proposed by Bobby Willis.

The hospital was never built and the Lees allege Willis and others used the Lees' money to purchase various properties throughout San Juan County.

Federal prosecutors have indicated they will request that Willis forfeit at least $1 million upon conviction.

Willis also faces charges in state court of fraud and embezzlement stemming from the dissolution in 2012 of New Mexico Title Co. and its sister company, New Mexico Title Escrow Co. He is accused in that case of stealing millions of dollars in cash and assets from two men through an alleged investment scheme.

Prosecutor Yvonne Chicoine stated at a Dec. 14 status conference that the state offered Willis a plea deal to resolve those charges, but he declined the offer, according to a transcript from the hearing.

That case is set to go to trial on March 22.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.