I know that Rhode Island and New York and New Jersey (and of course Massachusetts!) talk a big game when it comes to their corruption? And Illinois likes to claim its spot as the most corrupt state. And we can’t forget about Louisiana. But to borrow a term that Pac-12 football fans like to use because the media ignores the conference, this is some east coast bias. Everyone forgets about New Mexico. But the Land of Enchantment has some serious game:
State Treasurers Michael Montoya, who served from 1995 to 2002, and Robert Vigil, who served from 2003 to 2005, were arrested on the same day in 2005 as a result of an FBI investigation that began when a staffer at the office was arrested for counterfeiting. Vigil had served as Montoya’s deputy. Both were Democrats.
Montoya pleaded guilty to a federal charge of extortion in 2005, and he pleaded guilty in 2007 to a state charge of racketeering. He served four years in prison. Vigil was convicted of one count of attempted extortion. He was acquitted of 23 other charges of extortion and racketeering. He served two years and two months in federal prison.
According to an FBI affidavit, Montoya, while shaking down an investment adviser, uttered words that could almost serve as a motto for corrupt officials in this state: “That’s the way we do business in New Mexico.”
Former state Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon, once considered the most powerful person in the state Legislature, pleaded guilty in federal court in 2009 to three felony counts of conspiracy and mail fraud.
All counts were related to a scheme to defraud the state of nearly $4.4 million in the construction of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse in Albuquerque.
Prosecutors said the money pocketed by Aragon, who served in the state Senate for 29 years, and his co-defendants came from state capital outlay funds. Aragon, in his capacity as senator, made sure the courthouse project contained extra funds that eventually would be paid to him and his co-conspirators. Ken Shultz, a former Albuquerque mayor and registered lobbyist for the architectural contractor, also pleaded guilty in the case.
More recently, Gov. Martinez’s top political adviser, Jay McCleskey, has been the focus of an FBI investigation that involves questions about how money was transferred from Martinez’s 2010 inaugural committee and Susana PAC to companies that McCleskey controlled. Federal investigators also have subpoenaed documents looking into whether the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department conducted retaliatory audits against Martinez’s enemies, allegations the Governor’s Office has denied. No one has been charged with anything in connection with either probe.
Sure the dollar amounts involved are smaller than in Chicago or New York. It’s a smaller market. But New Mexico knows it’s corruption and will match you Rhode Islanders and Chicagoites scandal for scandal.