New charges filed against NM town's mayor-elect

AP News
Posted: Apr 06, 2012 7:46 PM
New charges filed against NM town's mayor-elect

Alcohol, padded expense reports, prostitutes and kickbacks. Those are some the latest charges filed in New Mexico against the mayor-elect of the troubled border town of Sunland Park.

Prosecutors Friday filed18 new felony charges against Daniel Salinas, who has been in and out of jail since being accused in late February of trying to force his opponent out of the race with a video that showed him getting a topless lap dance.

Those allegations set off what prosecutors have described as a full-time investigation by state, local and federal officials of the notoriously dysfunctional town.

On Friday, Salinas, Sunland Park Public Works Director Jesus Dario Hernandez and Jorge Angulo of Envirosystems Management Consultants were accused in what prosecutors describe as a "triangle" or "pyramid scheme."

Envirosystems had a $2.4 million contract to do an environmental impact study of a border crossing for the town, and picked up expenses for Salinas and other city officials who attended a conference in Mexico last year, prosecutors said. The company then billed the expenses, which included prostitutes, drinks and strip clubs, to the city, the criminal complaints allege.

Angulo is also accused of billing the city thousands of dollars for campaign videos produced for Salinas's campaign. All totaled, he is accused of submitting some $40,000 in fraudulent expenses through Envirosystems, which prosecutors allege got the contract with Sunland Park after giving $10,000 in cash to Daniel Salinas and $10,000 in cash to another city worker, with the understanding she would run for Dona Ana County Commission.

The money was to be reimbursed from a $12 million account the city created with a donation from Sunland Park Race Track owner Stan Fulton to help get a border crossing to Mexico built in the town, according to the criminal complaint.

Sunland Park borders the Texas city of El Paso and the Mexican city of Juarez.

Angulo was charged with six counts of fraud and conspiracy; Hernandez was charged with five. The charges against Salinas include receiving and soliciting illegal kickbacks, fraud and ethics violations.

Arrest warrants were issued for all three men, but officials said none were in custody at the Dona Ana County jail Friday evening.

Salinas's attorney did not immediately return a phone call. And there was no immediate response to a message left with a number listed for Envirosystems in El Paso.

Hernandez of El Paso has been missing since being charged along with Salinas, the city manager and another city worker in the alleged extortion of Salinas opponent, Gerardo Hernandez.

The arrest warrant for Salinas requested a $1 million bail. He has already been arrested jailed and released twice, first in the alleged extortion attempt and then on allegations he hired the city's acting police chief in exchange for the man having his sister drop a challenge to a Salinas ally on the city council. Salinas has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Gerardo Hernandez lost the race to Salinas, but he may get another shot at the job.

Isabel Santos, the interim mayor and a city councilor in this troubled border town, told KRQE ( he is one of the front-runners to fill the vacant post since Salinas was unable to be sworn in by Thursday's deadline.

Salinas was barred from taking the oath of office by the terms of his release on the extortion charges, which prohibit him from having any contact with city workers, including the clerk who administers the oath.

Santos said the council will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to declare the mayor's office vacant and decide whether to appoint a new mayor or call a special election.