Dirty Politics in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - The former campaign manager for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez pleaded guilty to stealing email messages from her and her staff and giving them as ammunition to political rivals, federal prosecutors said.
Jamie Estrada, 41, of Los Lunas, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of unlawful interception of electronic communications and one count of making false statements arising out of the unlawful interception of wire communications intended for others, according to a plea agreement.
Estrada was charged under a 14-count indictment in 2013. He faces up to one year in federal prison.
He served as Martinez's campaign manager in 2009 when she was running for governor. She was elected and took office in 2011.
"Each and every one of us has a right and an expectation of privacy in our electronic communications, including our emails, and those who violate the law by diverting, stealing or otherwise misappropriating our private communications should face serious consequences," U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said Monday.
Prosecutors said Estrada was given the username and password for Susana2010.com when he was hired in July 2009 and was asked by Martinez to cooperate with removal of his access when he left the campaign four months later. The domain housed email accounts for Martinez and several members of her staff, who continued to use the accounts after her inauguration.
"Estrada admitted that on July 29, 2011, he logged onto the domain and altered the customer profile using a fictitious name with a Colorado address," prosecutors said. "Estrada also admitted renewing the domain under the fictitious name and paid for the renewal with a pre-paid gift card so that the renewal could not be traced back to him."
Prosecutors said Estrada changed the settings for the domain to direct all incoming email to an email account he controlled instead of to the intended recipients, resulting in hundreds of emails being rerouted for approximately 11 months.
"The intercepted emails included personal emails, internal political communications and emails from ordinary citizens to the governor or her staff," prosecutors said. "In his plea agreement, Estrada admitted sharing the emails he unlawfully intercepted with the governor's political opponents to disseminate the emails to news media and other outlets."
Estrada also admitted he lied to FBI agents when they executed a search warrant on his home in September 2012. Prosecutors said he denied using a pre-paid gift card.
Martinez's office could not be reached for comment Monday evening.