SANTA FE – The politically connected insider who shared in more than $22 million of finder’s fees paid by companies that won state investments pleaded no contest to one count of income tax evasion on Monday afternoon.
Former Santa Fe broker Marc Correra, 50, was sentenced to three months of probation and handed over a cashier’s check paying the state almost $329,000 to take care of his 2009 income taxes.
Correra, whose father Anthony was a confidante and political supporter of former Gov. Bill Richardson, also was given a “conditional discharge,” which means his record will be wiped clean of the tax charge if he completes probation successfully.
Correra had no comment to reporters after the hearing. He nodded and answered in the affirmative during the hearing as District Judge T. Glenn Ellington asked if he understood the terms of the plea deal.
Deputy District Attorney Regina Ryanczak told the judge Correra earned $5.5 million in New Mexico in 2009, but that he has said he thought he hadn’t lived in the state long enough to pay taxes that year.
Correra advised his accountant not to file a New Mexico return, said Ryanczak. Income taxes are due if the taxpayer lives in New Mexico for 185 days during a year.
The amount of taxes Correra owed was $267,916 but, with interest and penalties added in, he was required to pay $328,898 to settle up with the state.
Correra’s attorney, Jason Bowles of Albuquerque, handed the check over in court to Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla. “This was a complicated case that took nearly three years to put together with the help of District Attorney “Spence” Pacheco and her staff,” Padilla said in a later statement.
“This should send a strong message that we will pursue anyone who does not pay their fair share of taxes owed to the State.”
The investigation into Correra’s back taxes started after an anonymous tip to the Taxation Department’s Tax Fraud hotline. Prosecutors concluded that Correra owed taxes after finding an affidavit in his Texas divorce case that showed he lived in New Mexico through September in 2009, before moving to Paris.
He and Bowles had no comment as they left the court hearing.
Correra is not out of the legal thicket quite yet. The State Investment Council has an active civil lawsuit against Correra, his father and others currently in the discovery phase, with both sides exchanging evidence.
The Correras were key figures in accusations that New Mexico investments from the State Investment Council and Educational Retirement Board were steered through political insiders. No charges over the investments were filed in New Mexico after a federal investigation.
In a plea agreement in New York, a former state investment advisor said he pushed investments in New Mexico to benefit politically connected individuals without regard to whether the investments were good deals for the state.
State officials have estimated that deals that went sour cost New Mexico millions.
Richardson said in 2009, through a spokesman, that he was unaware of firms paying third-party placement fees and he ordered the SIC not to invest in firms with those arrangements after the New York pension scandal was tied to New Mexico.
In court Monday, Ellington told Marc Correra that the “special felony” charge carries a sentence of from one to five years in prison and could be imposed if Correra did not fulfill terms of his three-month probation.
Ellington asked prosecutor Ryanczak why the probation period was three months and she responded that it was because of Correra’s assurance that he would be bringing full restitution to court.
“We are still aggressively pursuing (financial) recovery on behalf of the state against not only Mr. Correra but also his father and numerous other defendants,” SIC spokesman Charles Wollmann said on Monday.
“We have already served him (Marc Correra with legal documents) and we had to go to Paris to do it,” said Wollmann.
Wollmann said his agency has already settled with a couple of people sued by the SIC “that lead to about $26 million in recoveries and we anticipate additional millions to be recovered in the future.” These were “individuals who were involved in pay to play,” he said.
“Our case is progressing and we are doing what’s right for New Mexico in pursuing cases,” Wollmann said.