ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The former head of the New Mexico Tax and Revenue Department Demesia Padilla has been sentenced to probation for embezzlement. Padilla was convicted in June of stealing $25,000 from a trucking firm in Bernalillo while she was the Tax and Revenue secretary.
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Prosecutors say she used her position to gain access to one of her client’s private accounts, bank information and then use that information to embezzle money. She was facing 18 years in prison but her sentence was suspended, and she will serve five years of probation instead. Padilla also must complete community service and pay over $25,000 in restitution to her victims.
“I do think that sometimes the punishment has to match the crime. We don’t want to second guess judges but obviously, I’m very concerned that the legislature has failed to tighten up these loopholes defendants keep using as defenses,” said NM Attorney General Hector Balderas.
Back in 2015, a tipster sparked an investigation into Padilla. The AG’s Office determined Padilla was committing crimes of theft and corruption for six years as the secretary up until a month before she resigned in late 2016. Balderas also charged Padilla with six ethics crimes related to using her position as secretary to keep auditors away from the business firm she was stealing from.
Padilla is fighting those charges claiming they’re too broad. That case is now in the hand of the New Mexico Supreme Court. Balderas says elected officials would not be able to keep finding loopholes in state ethics laws if the legislatures closed them.
“We know for many years that New Mexico has had a corruption problem and the courts have been very clear that the legislature needs to tighten up these statutes in order to bring more accountability and yet we have multiple corruption cases up in the supreme court waiting for a decision. I’d rather the legislature really close these loopholes,” Balderas said.
Balderas says tightening up the language in state ethics laws will be one of his top priorities during the upcoming legislative session and hopes lawmakers will work with him.
This is the third public official convicted of a corruption-related crime in recent years. In 2015, then secretary of state Diana Duran was convicted of stealing campaign money to fuel her gambling addiction. She was sentenced to 30 days.
In 2017, now-former state senator Phil Griego was convicted of fraud and bribery in a real estate deal involving a state-owned building and sentenced to a year and a half in prison.