Impeachment Calls for NM Secretary of State

     SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) – After telling her attorney general she was “excited to work with” him to clean up campaign finance, the New Mexico secretary of state ended up criminally charged with embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and identity theft.
     When Dianna Duran was elected in November 2010, she became New Mexico’s first Republican secretary of state in 80 years. Attorney General Hector Balderas’s office issued the 64-count criminal indictment on Friday. Democrats in the Legislature are considering articles of impeachment.
     Citing tax records and subpoenaed bank accounts, the criminal complaint claims Duran electronically withdrew $147,641 in cash from her accounts at seven casinos in 2013, and $282,806.96 from eight casinos on 2014.
     The annual salary for the New Mexico secretary of state is $85,000.
     The 26-page complaint against Duran came 10 weeks after her office and the attorney general’s issued a report from their joint Campaign Finance Reporting Task Force. Balderas is a Democrat.
     When Balderas and Duran announced the creation of the joint task force in February, Duran said she was “excited to work with Attorney General Balderas … in order to assure transparency and accountability.”
     In June, Balderas wrote Duran a letter saying he was concerned about “shortcomings in the current system of campaign finance reporting,” and that “we need to put teeth back into the law .”
     By then, Balderas had been investigating Duran for nearly a year.
     Balderas showed his teeth Friday, charging Duran with ethics violations, fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, conspiracy, computer access with the intent to defraud or embezzle, tampering with public records, identity theft, filing a false campaign report, and violating political campaign law.
     The criminal complaint says Balderas’s office began investigating Duran in July 2014 after getting a tip about her personal bank account.
     “The information in the tip advised that there were numerous cash deposits made into bank accounts of Dianna J. Duran,” the complaint states. “The cash deposits appeared to be incongruent when compared to known sources of income.”
     Duran was elected to her first term in November 2010. The criminal complaint claims that the suspicious transactions began in or around March that year and continued through December 2014.
     “There has been a pattern of observed behavior demonstrated by Dianna J. Duran during the course of this investigation,” the complaint states. “The pattern appears to center around, among other things, deposits of large amounts of cash as well as campaign contributions into financial accounts, both personal and campaign, controlled by Dianna J. Duran. This behavior has been observed to often be followed by the subsequent transfer of funds between financial institutions including personal and campaign accounts controlled by Dianna J. Duran. This behavior often culminates in large debits for cash expenditures occurring at casinos throughout the State of New Mexico.”
     Duran’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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