MARCH 30, 2007
A major public corruption scheme that has cost taxpayers more than $4 million has led to the federal indictment of a New Mexico lawmaker and the county court administrator who helped him launder the money.
The case has gained national attention because is has been prominently mentioned in the recent firing of New Mexico’s top federal prosecutor, who claims a Republican lawmaker pressured him to speed up the indictment before last November’s election.
In their 24-page indictment, prosecutors say that former senate president pro tem Manny Aragon and a former metro court administrator named Toby Martinez stole and laundered $4.2 million in public funds meant for the construction of a courthouse in Bernalillo County. The others charged are Martinez’s wife and a partner in an Albuquerque engineering firm.
The four defendants did it by submitting and approving false invoices for payment and making excessive requests for payment, according to federal prosecutors. The Martinez couple received about $2 million of the public money and Aragon got about $700,000.
The rest of the cash evidently went to an architect, a former Albuquerque mayor and a subcontractor involved in the project. All three have pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud.
Former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias told Congress last week that this highly politicized case led to his firing because he rejected the pressure of Republican U.S. Senator Pete Domenici to speed up the indictment. Domenici was in a hotly contested race and the indictments would have hurt the Democrats in the November elections.
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