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          Front Page




Former Treasurer Montoya Pleads Guilty To Extortion

By Scott Sandlin/
Journal Staff Writer
      Former state Treasurer Michael Montoya pleaded guilty to one count of extortion Tuesday and acknowledged in court that he started taking bribes almost as soon as he took office in 1995.
    "I discovered that it was quite easy to get bribes from people who wanted to keep or to obtain business with the State Treasurer's Office," says a statement of facts in the plea agreement signed by Montoya, his atttorney and federal prosecutors.
    Montoya said he had such large campaign debts when he took office that he "was using my entire official salary to pay (them) back. Soon after I took office I began taking bribes from persons doing business with the State Treasurer's Office in order to cover my living expenses.
       These bribes were for the purpose of affecting my exercise of my official duties. . . "
    Montoya's guilty plea to a single count of extortion drew a crowd of reporters and other onlookers to the restored historic courtroom of Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker.
    Prosecutors agreed that he would be sentenced under 1995 federal guidelines and that they would recommend a downward departure from the eight to 11 years in prison he faces at sentencing. No sentencing date has been set because Montoya, under terms of his plea, must cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.
    Robert Vigil, state treasurer until his resignation from office last week, was charged at the same time as Montoya with two counts of demanding kickbacks under color of office. Vigil also was charged in a superseding indictment with 19 more counts of extortion. Vigil's attorney Sam Bregman, attended Tuesday's hearing, said Montoya's plea would have no effect on their case and that his client looked forward to having his day in court.