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Grand jury files charges against former New Mexico senator

June 20, 2017 • State News

In this July 7, 2016, file photo, former state Sen. Phil Griego, left, speaks to his attorney, Tom Clark, during his preliminary hearing at district court in Albuquerque, N.M. A grand jury has charged Griego with perjury, fraud and embezzlement in connection with campaign finance activities, as the prominent Democrat awaits trial in a corruption probe. (Luis Sanchez Saturno /Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A grand jury has charged a former New Mexico state senator with perjury, fraud and embezzlement in connection with campaign finance activities, as the prominent Democrat awaits trial in a corruption probe.

Twenty-two new charges were filed against Phil Griego, including counts of perjury, fraud, embezzlement and filing a false or incomplete campaign finance report. Defense attorney Thomas Clark said Tuesday that Griego maintains his innocence.

Griego already is awaiting trial on allegations that he used his position as a state senator to profit from the 2014 sale of a state-owned building in downtown Santa Fe by pushing the transaction through the Legislature without proper disclosure.

He resigned from the Senate in 2015 amid an inquiry into his real estate dealings by a legislative ethics committee.

The new charges stem from campaign finance reports filed between 2012 and 2016. Concerns about the reports were referred to the attorney general’s office for prosecution last year by the Office of the Secretary of State that oversees campaign finance disclosures.

A special agent to the attorney general last year found dozens of checks were drafted against Griego’s campaign account since 2012 without being reported in campaign finance statements as required by law.

Clark questioned whether state prosecutors are devoting an unwarranted amount of time and resources to their case against Griego.

“The state has decided to pursue Mr. Griego in an aggressive manner like I have seldom seen in a white collar crime,” he said.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Deputy Attorney General Sharon Pino have asked a state district judge to combine all charges against Griego into one case for trial.

Clark said many of the new accusations have no bearing on Griego’s scheduled trial. Revelations about Greigo’s role in the state land sale have spurred calls for state ethics reforms.

New Mexico residents vote next fall on whether to create an independent state ethics commission under a constitutional amendment.

Public prosecutors would still handle criminal matters if a commission is created.

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