LAS CRUCES — Former Sunland Park City Councilor Angelica Marquez has turned herself in on charges of false voting and conspiracy, both fourth-degree felonies, in a widening investigation into alleged voter and voting registration fraud in the border town.
Marquez, 41, is the third city official to be charged by District Attorney Amy Orlando for violations of voting laws in the last week, following an investigation by Secretary of State Dianna Duran. Marquez, who has said she planned to run for a Doña Ana County commission seat, was booked at the county detention center Wednesday evening and released on a $50,000 secured bond.
Four others have been charged in an ongoing probe of an extortion attempt aimed at pushing a mayoral candidate out of the race, including city councilor and Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas; city manager Jaime Aguilera; Martah Alondra Lozano, assistant to the human resources director; and public works director Jesus Dario Hernandez. Hernandez, who has not reported to work for nearly two weeks, has not yet been arrested in the case.
Orlando said Thursday that more arrests are in the pipeline in the voter fraud and extortion cases.
A Las Cruces-based grand jury Thursday handed up indictments against Salinas and Aguilera on identical charges of extortion, tampering with evidence and conspiracy. Salinas and Aguilera had entered not guilty pleas.
Marquez, part of a City Council faction aligned with Salinas, resigned from her elected position Feb. 10 as her husband, Ernesto Rene Marquez, ran for her District 5 seat on Salinas’ ticket. Ernesto Marquez lost the race.
Salinas won the mayor’s seat in Tuesday’s election, but his chief rival Gerardo Hernandez, the target of an alleged blackmail attempt involving a secretly recorded video of Hernandez getting a lap dance from a topless woman, plans to challenge the validity of the election in District Court.
According to a report by the secretary of state, Angelica Marquez helped four nonresidents register to vote in Sunland Park using her home address, 140 Mimbre, as theirs, and she helped four other nonresidents register to vote using her home as their mailing address. Of the eight, four voted early in the March 6 election.
Before Tuesday’s election closed, Ernesto Marquez said he expected that “more than likely, because of political persecution,” his wife would be arrested in the voting investigation.
“But I’m not worried about the charges,” Ernesto Marquez said, adding that four of the people who registered to vote using the couple’s home address are relatives who live in the five-bedroom house. Ernesto Marquez identified one of those individuals, 26-year-old Priscilla Morales, the secretary to the absent public works director, as his niece.
Police, however, say Priscilla Morales is really an El Paso resident. According to a criminal complaint, Morales told investigators that when she was approached by Angelica Marquez at a grocery store on Jan. 14, she told Marquez “she didn’t think she could vote in New Mexico because she was a Texas resident.”
Angelica Marquez told Morales “that if she planned on moving to Sunland Park within four years, planned on looking for an apartment or a house then it would be OK for her to register to vote,” according to the police complaint.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal