Metro court scandal convict gets job with state

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After stealing more than $2 million from taxpayers, Toby Martinez has landed another government job.

He was at the center of one of the biggest corruption scandals in New Mexico history, the Metro Courthouse construction scandal. 

KRQE News 13 has learned the former courthouse administrator is now working for the Public Defender’s Office.

While KRQE News 13 heard from people concerned about the convicted felon now working for the state, his federal defense attorney said no one is more qualified for the job.

“Who else would you have working for the public defender but someone who has been through the system, done wrong, makes it right,” said Brian Pori, Martinez’ attorney.

Martinez did five and a half years in prison for his role as one of eight people, including former State Senator Manny Aragon, siphoning more than $4.3 million from the construction of the new Metropolitan Courthouse between 1999 and 2004.

“This, I think, was the largest amount of money and the biggest conspiracy that I have ever seen in New Mexico related to the misuse of public funds,” said former Attorney General Gary King last November. 

His office assisted in the prosecution.

Martinez admitted to pocketing more than $2 million in illegal kickbacks using phony invoices.

Now-retired Judge Kevin Fitzwater served on the Metro Court Building Committee at the time.

“That trust was betrayed in this case. It was very important to show that those that betray it, do pay that price,” Fitzwater told KRQE News 13 in a Larry Barker Investigation last November.

KRQE News 13 has learned that’s about the same time Martinez got a job as a senior paralegal at the Public Defender’s Office in Albuquerque, where Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur said Martinez is making about $41,000 a year.

Meanwhile, as of June 2017, Martinez owed the state $2,454,542.39 in court-ordered restitution for taking public money.

Martinez did not respond to our call, but his federal defense attorney did.

“People who go to jail, get out and when they get out, they’re either going to get reintegrated into society or they’re going to get shunned,” Martinez’ attorney said. “If they’re going to be shunned, they’re going to commit more crimes.”

Pori said Martinez deserves a second chance.

“You don’t see how someone might be concerned following a breach of trust with the public before, that he’s now in a position to work for the public again?” KRQE News 13 asked Pori.

“I absolutely understand how someone can be concerned, and I think someone who’s concerned needs to figure out if he in the position where he can breach the public’s trust,” Pori responded.

He pointed out that Martinez is not handling public money as a paralegal. He said Martinez is interviewing and counseling people in jail charged with crimes, people in a situation he himself was once in.

“I’m proud of him. I don’t care what other people think, I’m proud of this man because he’s a living example that you can do wrong and make it right,” Pori said.

He said a quarter of his client’s monthly take-home pay goes toward paying restitution.

Chief Public Defender Baur said Martinez was the most qualified candidate and that, while someone’s criminal history should be taken into consideration, it should not bar someone from working.

He said the Public Defender’s Office takes responsibility for supervising Martinez, along with its other employees.

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