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AG examines Griego’s credit card payments

Former Sen. Phil Griego

Former Sen. Phil Griego

SANTA FE – The Attorney General’s Office continues to drill down into former Sen. Phil Griego’s possible misuse of his campaign funds, obtaining a search warrant for his American Express card account.

Investigators want to know more about 13 payments totaling nearly $16,000 they say were made from his campaign bank account to American Express from 2012 to 2014 but not reported to the secretary of state, as state law requires.

“It is unknown, for instance, if the unreported payments paid for campaign or purely personal expenses,” Special Agent Mark Pinto wrote in his request for a search warrant.

The search warrant, obtained Sept. 28 but unsealed in state District Court just last week, is the latest publicly disclosed step in the AG’s probe.

Search warrants had been obtained previously for his bank records.

Griego, a Democrat from San Miguel County who resigned from the Senate in March 2015, already is facing criminal charges for his role in the sale of a historic state-owned building near the Capitol in 2014. A real estate associate broker, he’s alleged to have used his position as a legislator to get a $50,000 fee from the transaction.

Charges against him include bribery, perjury and violating his oath of public office; a trial is scheduled for October 2017.

Griego has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his attorney has said the state lacks sufficient evidence to back them up.

The former lawmaker also is the subject of a pending complaint filed by the New Mexico Real Estate Commission, related to the 2014 real estate deal and whether he properly disclosed his involvement in it.

Griego, whose license as an associate broker has been inactive since March, could face disciplinary action if he is found to have violated real estate laws or regulations. He has denied any wrongdoing.

According to the recently released search warrant, in the period from March 2012 through January 2014, Griego made 23 payments totaling $23,375 from his bank campaign account to American Express. He failed to report 13 of them, totaling $15,916, to the secretary of state, the AG’s investigator said.

Previously, investigators had said there were 43 instances since 2012 in which checks written from Griego’s campaign account were not reported to the secretary of state.

Griego’s lawyer, Tom Clark, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest search warrant.