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Probe of ex-Cabinet member ‘highly active,’ AG’s Office says

SANTA FE – It’s been exactly one year since former New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla resigned after state investigators raided the agency she headed in search of tax documents connected to Padilla and her husband.

Demesia Padilla

Demesia Padilla

But no charges have been filed by Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office, which has been tight-lipped about the case.

“This remains a highly active, ongoing investigation, and we cannot provide any other details at this time,” Matt Baca, senior counsel at the Attorney General’s Office, told the Journal on Thursday.

Padilla, who was one of Gov. Susana Martinez’s first Cabinet appointees after Martinez was elected in 2010, initially denied allegations that she pressured department employees to give preferential treatment to a former client of hers, telling the Journal in July 2015 that the allegations were just a “bump in the road.”

However, Padilla resigned abruptly after a search warrant affidavit filed in December 2016 by the Attorney General’s Office indicated that she could be under scrutiny for multiple potential criminal acts, including tax evasion and embezzlement.

The office first received a referral about possible criminal activity on the part of Padilla in July 2015 from then-state Auditor Tim Keller, who is now Albuquerque’s mayor.

Much of the attorney general’s early investigation into Padilla’s actions appeared to center on payments made to Padilla and her husband during a roughly 14-month period – from December 2011 until February 2013 – by a Bernalillo-area trucking company.

A company official said Padilla handled the company’s financial affairs until February 2013 – when she was already a Cabinet secretary – but that she was fired after unauthorized transactions were noticed, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Since resigning as taxation and revenue secretary, Padilla seems to have kept a low profile.

Her attorney, Paul Kennedy of Albuquerque, declined to comment this week when asked about Padilla and the case’s status.

Meanwhile, it’s not unusual for state investigations into public officials – both elected and appointed – to require extended amounts of time.

For instance, the Attorney General’s Office did not file public corruption charges against former state Sen. Phil Griego, a Democrat, until February 2016. That was nearly a year after he had resigned from the Senate instead of facing possible disciplinary action and 19 months after the Santa Fe Reporter published a story that raised questions about Griego’s conduct.