Trial begins for former NM cabinet secretary accused of embezzlement

Politics - Government

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The trial against a former New Mexico cabinet secretary is underway. Demesia Padilla is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars while she was a cabinet secretary. Former Governor Susana Martinez appointed Padilla to essentially be the head of finances for the state. Overseeing billions of dollars as the tax and revenue secretary.

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“The evidence, in this case, will show that the defendant, Demesia Padilla, used her position of trust to access one of her clients, private clients, bank account information and then use that information to embezzle money,” said Peter Valencia, assistant attorney general.

Thirteenth Judicial District Judge Cindy Mercer did not allow any cameras in Tuesday’s trial, so the video is from previous hearings. It all started back in 2015 when an anonymous letter was sent to then-State Auditor Tim Keller. The tipster also wrote that tax and revenue workers considered Padilla to be the most unqualified, incompetent secretary in recent history.

That sparked an investigation and the Attorney General’s Office later determined Padilla was committing crimes of theft and corruption for six years as the former governor’s tax and revenue secretary, up until a month before she resigned in late 2016. Padilla’s now charged with embezzlement accused of stealing $25,000 from a grading and trucking firm in Bernalillo, a company she did accounting work for by making 40 transfers from their account to hers from December 2011 to January 2013.

As secretary, she wasn’t supposed to have personal clients anymore. Tuesday in court, Padilla’s defense attorney says the AG investigation got it all wrong. “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re going to find in the evidence, in this case, that not only was there no money stolen, there is money still owed, still owed to this day, theoretically, to Jesse and Demesia,” said Paul Kennedy, defense attorney.

Padilla is also facing charges of using a computer with the intent to embezzle funds. Governor Martinez stood by Padilla for a year after the accusations first surfaced, calling them a publicity stunt. Padilla is also facing charges in a separate case that she tried to pressure tax and revenue workers to bury an audit of the trucking company to hide the crime; That case is currently in appeal.

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