ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One consultant to the Secretary of State’s Office didn’t even produce time sheets to show what he did for $750,000 in voting assistance contracts, and another produced such suspicious notebooks in support of the millions he got that auditors disallowed it, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.
Joseph Kupfer, a lobbyist and consultant to then Secretary-of-State Rebecca Vigil, and Corpus Christi election consultant Armando Gutierrez are on trial for the next two weeks in federal court on charges that reach back to 2004. They include conspiracy to steal money under the Help America Vote Act, a congressional fund intended to help states avoid the voting problems that became evident in the 2000 presidential election, as well as actual theft and obstruction of justice charges.
According to testimony Wednesday, New Mexico received $5 million in one round and $14 million in another for voter education, disability access and more under the act.
Defense attorneys told the jury that although the consultants were well paid, they indeed had performed the promised work.
“Evidence will show he fulfilled the contract,” Gutierrez attorney Ahmed Assad said.
And Kupfer’s attorney, Billy Blackburn, urged jurors to keep an open mind.
“The work Joe Kupfer did was legal,” he said. “It’s not illegal to make a profit.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Neda told the jury the lifestyle of the defendants went high during the period. “Joe Kupfer and his wife went on a spending frenzy,” she said.
Large amounts just disappeared as cash, she said, though Gutierrez purchased a $600,000 home with cash.
The government charges that Gutierrez submitted an invoice for $2 million the day after he got the contract with no supporting receipts and quickly paid Kupfer Consulting $140,000 when both knew the amount “far exceeded the value of any work” Kupfer had done.
That pattern continued, according to the prosecution, with Gutierrez submitting an invoice for $1.7 million in payment with no receipts in May 2006 even though he still had $1.7 million left from his previous $4 million in payments.
Kupfer and his wife, Daisy, already have been convicted of federal tax evasion charges in a separate trial in August based on the allegations. The tax case was carved out of the longer indictment. Both are before U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal