New Mexico Politico Whacked With 19 Felony Charges

SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) — Former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego, already facing corruption charges from a 2013 real estate deal, has been indicted on 22 more criminal charges — 19 of them felonies — mostly perjury and embezzlement.

Griego was a Democratic state senator for 18 years before he resigned in 2015 during an ethics investigation.

He was charged with nine criminal counts in February 2016, including fraud, perjury, tampering with public records, ethics violations, solicitation of bribery, and failure to disclose financial information: using his legislative position to earn a $50,000 commission on the 2014 sale of a state-owned building. According to that criminal complaint, Griego never disclosed the commission, nor did he pay his own broker the 20 percent commission owed.

He was accused of engineering legislation to allow the sale of a state-owned building to a client by asking another representative to carry the bill for him. Griego never voted on the bill, but stepped out of the chamber while the votes were cast.

“Griego’s abrupt departure from the vote is an early indicator to this agent that Griego knew he had a conflicting interest in the vote while he was functioning as a legislator, but hoped not voting on the measure would alleviate this conflict,” the complaint states.

He pleaded not guilty to the 2016 charges, saying he was not aware of the constitutional prohibition against lawmakers profiting from legislation passed during their terms.

Eight judges recused themselves from the case before the New Mexico Supreme Court assigned Judge Brett R. Loveless, a Republican of Albuquerque, to the case.

As the 2016 case was proceeding, investigation of Griego’s finances led to the June 16 grand jury indictment on 13 counts of perjury, five of embezzlement, three of campaign finance violations and one of fraud. The indictment alleges, inter alia, that Griego pocketed more than $9,000 in campaign funds for his own use and lied about it on campaign reports.

If convicted of all new charges, Griego could face up to 30 years in prison and $98,000 in fines.

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