New Mexico official accused of secretly recording 12-year-old girl undressing

Asia's Tech News Daily

Dec. 8—A top official in the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department was charged Tuesday with four counts of voyeurism involving a child and was placed on administrative leave.

Chandler Kahawai, 38, of Santa Fe, who serves as the agency's chief financial officer, is accused of secretly recording video of a 12-year-old girl as she was dressing and undressing and using the bathroom in her home and his, according to a criminal complaint filed in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court.

Kahawai, who did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday, has not been arrested.

“The allegations disclosed today are shocking and troubling,” Sherrie Catanach, a spokeswoman for the Indian Affairs Department, wrote in an email. “The employee in question was immediately placed on administrative leave; should the facts and outcome warrant, they will be disciplined appropriately, including possible termination.”

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, declined to comment on the allegations against Kahawai and referred questions to the Indian Affairs Department.

Santa Fe police Lt. David Webb said the department had sought an arrest warrant against Kahawai. Magistrate George Anaya found probable cause for a warrant, Webb added, but the judge instead advised detectives to seek a criminal summons.

Detective Ian Freeman wrote in the criminal complaint Kahawai was suspected of filming the girl over the course of several days with a hidden camera discovered by the girl's mother. The device appeared to be a USB power adapter for charging electronic devices, but also had a pinhole camera, the complaint said.

The investigation began after the girl told school officials in October that Kahawai had touched her inappropriately, Freeman wrote, which prompted him to conduct a forensic interview with her. While Freeman wrote the girl's allegations might not rise to the level of criminal sexual contact, he was concerned she was “possibly being 'groomed' by Chandler for future sexual abuse.”

After the discovery of the hidden camera, Kahawai was called in for questioning.

Kahawai denied touching the girl inappropriately, except for accidental contact when the two would play, Freeman wrote.

Webb said the case remains under investigation and did not rule out the possibility of additional charges.

“So the case is actually still active,” he said. “The detective hasn't quite buttoned up all of those charges, so that is something that we are still looking at.”

Kahawai admitted to buying the hidden camera, according to the criminal complaint, but initially said it was intended to monitor the girl because of concerns she might be harming herself. During the interview with Freeman, however, he changed his story several times, the complaint said.

At one point, Freeman wrote, Kahawai said what he did was wrong and he was attracted to the girl. He also told the detective he had viewed videos multiple times in which the girl was unclothed, the complaint said.

Freeman executed search warrants last month on Kahawai's mobile device, a laptop computer and the memory card inside the hidden camera. The memory card contained 35 videos with time stamps dating to late October 2021, the complaint said, and Kahawai's cellphone contained videos of the girl using the bathroom in Kahawai's home.

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