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Email theft probe went down two paths

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

FBI agents trying to track how emails allegedly stolen from a campaign account of Gov. Susana Martinez were being distributed to political opponents found themselves searching the homes last November of a former Martinez campaign worker and Democratic political consultant.

The searches led agents down different paths. The consultant, Jason Loera, was arrested last week on child pornography charges.

The former Martinez campaign worker, Anissa Ford of Rio Rancho, is now a witness in the email case and has been interviewed by agents on other matters, including the Downs at Albuquerque racino lease, according to her attorney.

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The lawyer, Jerry Todd Wertheim, said Ford, one of Martinez’s personal aides during the campaign, has been a witness from the time the agents served the search warrant on her Rio Rancho home.

“She has never been anything but a witness,” Wertheim said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “That has been very clear since the start.”

Wertheim said his client has been questioned on several matters, including the emails stolen from the Susana2010.com campaign website.

“She has been questioned separately on the Downs at Albuquerque deal by a different set of agents,” Wertheim said.

“It was clear there was no linkage between the email investigation and the Downs investigation,” he said.

Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said, “Anissa Ford is a disgruntled former campaign staffer who was extremely bitter when she wasn’t offered a position after the campaign.

Knell also said her attorney is a “prominent Democratic lawyer.”

Martinez administration spokesmen have told the Journal they are unaware of any separate investigation into the Downs. They have said it would be normal for agents to ask questions about that issue since it likely would be raised by defense lawyers in the email case.

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Wertheim wouldn’t go into detail about what Ford told the FBI in either case because ‘we’re honoring the government’s request not to discuss specifics.”

Whether there is a separate investigation into the 25-year lease between Expo New Mexico and the Downs at Albuquerque has been hotly debated between members of the Martinez administration and critics for the last several weeks.

FBI agents have talked with critics of the State Fair Commission’s approval of the Downs at Albuquerque deal, but haven’t interviewed state officials or served search warrants or subpoenas on the agencies involved, according to state officials.

Emails allegedly intercepted from the old Martinez campaign website included some that dealt with aspects of the Downs at Albuquerque lease and were circulated by Martinez political foes.

The Downs lease was approved in November 2011, a year after the 2010 governor campaign.

FBI agents have talked with critics of the State Fair Commission’s approval of the Downs at Albuquerque deal, but haven’t interviewed state officials or served search warrants or subpoenas on the agencies involved, according to state officials.

Emails allegedly intercepted from the old Martinez campaign website included some that dealt with aspects of the Downs at Albuquerque lease and were circulated by Martinez political foes.

The Downs lease was approved in November 2011, a year after the 2010 governor campaign.

omarravenherst’ revealed

The other trail, involving Loera, took the FBI to a darker place: child pornography.

In November, agents were following the trail of emails sent from the address omarravenherst@gmail.com. Omar Kayam Ravenhurst was the fictitious name used by 1960s California counterculture writer Kerry Wendell Thornley.

Search warrant affidavits show agents initially thought the owner of the “Omar” email account was former Martinez campaign manager Jamie Estrada. He is charged with hijacking the website Susana2010.com, which was used during Martinez campaign for governor in 2009 and 2010.

Once Estrada hijacked the website, he directed emails sent to Martinez staff to another website under his control, according to a 14-count federal indictment.

Estrada’s computers were searched by agents last September, and information found led them to conclude in November that the omarravenherst email account was controlled by Loera.

According to the search warrant unsealed Wednesday, email traffic between Loera’s “Omar” email account and his personal account included emails with attachments that included communications allegedly stolen from the Susan2010 website.

An email from the omarravenherst@gmail.com surfaced in a state personnel hearing for former state Corrections Department employee Larry Flynn, who was trying to get his job back.

The email was attached to a legal document submitted by Flynn’s attorney, Sam Bregman, who has since been elected State Democratic Party Chairman.

Loera was a paid consultant to Grassroots New Mexico PAC. Bregman wrote an opinion piece in 2012 on behalf of the Grassroots PAC that listed Loera as the media contact for the organization.

Bregman hasn’t responded to Journal telephone messages or emails asking for comment about his relationship with Loera.

While searching some CDs seized in the raid on Loera’s home, agents found evidence that Loera downloaded child pornography, according to another search warrant affidavit. One photo showed an adult male sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl.

Loera was arrested last week in Los Angeles.

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