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Native Americans being exploited in medical fraud operation

KTVZ - NewsChannel 21

By Julian Paras

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    GALLUP, New Mexico (KOAT) — In Gallup, New Mexico, officials want to be clear — they are demanding the attention and awareness behind recent kidnappings targeting Native Americans and a medical fraud scheme getting out of hand.

“It blew my mind in the sense it raised the hair on the back of my neck because I didn’t know something like that was going on,” Gallup Mayor Louis Bonaguidi said.

Police say the vulnerable population of Native Americans is being picked up in vehicles and being promised resources to rehab with food and shelter.

“Gallup Police Department had looked into 32 reports of missing persons cases suspected of being taken to the Phoenix area,” Gallup police Chief Erin Toadlena-Pablo said.

18 of the 32 cases have been closed, with 14 still active. In response, the state of Arizona is suspending more than 100 facilities that may be involved in what officials are calling “predatory recruitment.”

Bonaguidi says he has reason to believe it’s happening across New Mexico.

“This is taking place in Albuquerque, Farmington, here, anywhere they can,” Bonaguidi said.

Chief Erin Toadlena-Pablo says police have been investigating reports over the last year. She said multiple police departments and state agencies are working to get to the bottom of this.

“We really do only have one shot to gather as much information on these missing persons cases and time is essential,” Toadlena-Pablo said.

Bonaguidi plans to reach out to state officials like the attorney general and continue to address this issue while local law enforcement works to gather more information.

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