Former NM insurance regulator's convictions upheld

AP News
Posted: Dec 29, 2009 5:08 PM

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld former state insurance regulator Joe Ruiz's corruption convictions.

Ruiz was convicted last year of soliciting charitable donations from insurance companies in exchange for reducing regulatory fines. He directed companies to make payments to a nonprofit health foundation closely connected to his supervisor or an arts group that bought a bilingual children's book Ruiz had written. Ruiz earned royalties from the books.

The health foundation, Con Alma, was formed by former State Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna, who had recruited Ruiz for his regulatory job.

In an unanimous decision, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Ruiz's convictions of extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud and corruption solicitation. He has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Ruiz worked as deputy insurance superintendent from June 2001 through July 2006.

Serna retired in 2006 in an agreement with the state Public Regulation Commission after it suspended him over conflict-of-interest issues, including some involving Con Alma.

The appeals court rejected Ruiz's arguments that state law allowed him to solicit charitable contributions instead of collecting fines for insurance regulatory violations.