2 Arrested in New Mexico Town Plagued by Blackmail Plot
Two officials of a New Mexico border town wracked by allegations of extortion and voting fraud were arrested Monday.
SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — Two officials of a New Mexico border town wracked by allegations of extortion and voting fraud were arrested Monday.
Former Sunland Park city councilor Angelica Marquez and the city's public information officer, Arturo Alba, were charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Including the latest arrests, seven people have been taken into custody on a variety of charges since allegations surfaced weeks ago that then mayor-pro tem and now Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas and other city officials tried to force Gerardo Hernandez out of the mayoral race with the recorded video of him getting a topless lap dance.
Since then, officials have also alleged widespread voter fraud.
Marquez was arrested at her home. Alba was arrested at his city hall office. Both were taken to Dona Ana County Detention Center, where they being held on $50,000 secure bond each. It was unclear if they had retained attorneys.
Salinas City Manager Jaime Aguilera was indicted last week on extortion and other charges related to the alleged blackmail plot. Salinas and Aguilera both have denied the charges.
A temporary city worker was also charged in the plot, and Marquez and two other current or former city officials have been arrested on voting fraud charges.
Salinas won the election last week but was not expected to be sworn in with other winners on Monday night, as he has been barred by terms of his release from entering city hall or having any contact with city workers.
According to court records, the alleged plot began in December 2011 when Salinas and some supporters held a meeting to talk about a fear that a Sunland Park priest was going to back Hernandez politically. At the session, Alba allegedly told the group he knew someone who could "dig up dirt" on Hernandez, according to the arrest affidavit.
The group decided to hire the man for $2,000 — an amount allegedly paid later by Salinas in cash, the newspaper reported. The man turned out to be an investigative journalist who allegedly set up the filming of the lap-dance video and had it by late January.
Authorities said someone approached Hernandez at the Sunland Park City Hall parking lot on Feb. 16 and threatened to release a video of him receiving a lap dance from a woman who wasn't his wife if he didn't drop out of the mayor's race.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.