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Former SF official said he got kickbacks

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SANTA FE – A former Santa Fe County Public Works director acknowledged in court this week that he collected about $20,000 and three trips to Las Vegas for his participation in an alleged scheme involving kickbacks on road projects.

James Lujan, who was fired in 2010 after the fraud investigation emerged, testified that, despite the scheme, there was nothing wrong with the roads built by Advantage Asphalt and Seal Coating.

“I believe they’re still good roads,” Lujan said.

Lujan testified at a hearing Tuesday – where he entered guilty pleas for his role in the alleged corruption scheme – that he probably received about $20,000 from Advantage Asphalt owner Joe Anthony Montoya. He was also given three trips to Las Vegas, Nev., but Lujan did not specify precisely who offered him the trips.

According to an audio recording of the Tuesday hearing obtained by the Journal under a records request, Lujan said that, according to documents uncovered during the investigation, he was slated to receive close to $50,000, but he said he didn’t get that much. He testified that what money he did receive was collected in cash from Montoya in 2008 and 2009.

Montoya’s attorney, Sam Bregman, declined comment on Lujan’s testimony. Montoya has pleaded not guilty in the case, in which prosecutors maintain taxpayers were defrauded of more than $1 million.

Jason Bowles, attorney for Montoya’s wife, Marlene Montoya, also a defendant, declined comment.

Advantage is accused, among other things, of misrepresenting work on county roads, performing substandard work, submitting false or inaccurate invoices and fraudulently collecting county payments.

Lujan’s testimony came during a hearing on a motion to dismiss charges against another defendant, Denice Sanchez, who was an assistant in Lujan’s county office. The motion was rejected by retired state District Judge James Hall, who is hearing the case.

Lujan testified that Sanchez handled paperwork related to the road projects, but that she did not know about or collect money from the scheme.

Earlier in the day, Lujan pleaded guilty to eight counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and a count of bribery, all felonies. Under his plea agreement, his potential prison time is capped at six years and counts of bribery and conspiracy to make false public vouchers were dropped.

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