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Former ZIA CU exec awarded $1.5M over land deal lawsuit

A former senior vice president of ZIA CU was awarded $1.5 million in damages over a 2015 lawsuit involving a land deal, the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal reported Dec. 18.

The jury on Dec. 16 awarded Edwin Ortiz $800,000 in actual damages and $700,000 in punitive damages, the publication wrote.

In 2007, a company offered to buy 1.3 acres of land that Ortiz had inherited, according to the news source. Ortiz informed ZIA CU's board about the offer and ZIA, which was considering an expansion, bought the property for $1.6 million.

In May 2012, ZIA President Larry Knoll fired Ortiz claiming that Ortiz played an improper part in the transaction and deceived the credit union about the property's real price, the publication reported. In its counterclaim, ZIA said Ortiz allegedly failed to disclose an appraisal that said the property was only worth $500,000. However, Ortiz maintained that the board was aware that Ortiz owned the property and of the two land appraisals.

Ross Crown, a lawyer for ZIA, told the publication that the Los Alamos, N.M.-based credit union will appeal the verdict.