Investigators allege that a Sunland Park contractor spent money on alcohol, strippers, prostitutes and a campaign video for city officials, then billed and was reimbursed by the city for the costs.
Former Sunland Park Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Salinas is facing 18 new felony charges alleging fraud and other crimes, many centered around having a city contractor pay for a campaign video, alcohol, strippers and prostitutes, then falsify invoices to get reimbursed by the city.
Two others face charges in the new case – Jesus Dario Hernandez, the city’s public works director, and Jorge I. Angulo, a manager of a company the city hired do to an environmental impact study for a possible border crossing in Sunland Park.
Hernandez, like Salinas, was already facing extortion charges related to using a lap-dance video to try to force one of Salinas’ opponents out of the March 6 mayoral election. Salinas also faces bribery charges in another public corruption case.
In the newest case, Salinas has been arrested and is being held on a $1 million cash bond that requires him to come up with 75 percent to be released. Angulo faces the same bond but has not been arrested.
Hernandez has not been arrested, and has been on the run since he was charged in the extortion case in February. In this case, he faces a $100,000 cash bond that would require 50 percent to be released.
The new allegations surround the city’s $2.4 million contract with a company called Envirosystems Management Consultants, Inc., which Angulo and another man manage, to conduct the study for a potential border crossing in Sunland Park, the criminal complaint states. That money came from $12 million given to the city by Stan Fulton, the owner of the Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.
Investigators allege that tens of thousands of dollars from that contract were illegally spent on other things – including alcohol, strippers and prostitutes during a trip to Mexico, and a video for Salinas’ mayoral campaign.
According to the complaint, the city’s public information officer, Arturo Alba, who faces felony charges in the lap-dance extortion case, told investigators he, Salinas, Hernandez and City Manager Jaime Aguilera (who’s also charged in the extortion case), along with Angulo, attended a border legislative conference in November 2011 in Coahuila, Mexico.
Angulo provided the city officials with $250 per day in per diem, the complaint alleges, in addition to paying for their meals, travel, lodging and “night life.” That included, according to the complaint, “alcohol and strip clubs for the entire group and prostitutes for Mr. Alba and Mr. Salinas.”
Alba told investigators that, in order to get around the lower per diem allowance set by law, “Mr. Salinas had arranged for a ‘pyramid scheme’ with Mr. Angulo” – which essentially meant that Angulo paid for expenses and then invoiced the city through the Envirosystems contract and was paid back.
Angulo also allegedly paid for the creation of videos to promote the border crossing project and the city’s mayoral campaign. As was the case with the expenses for the Mexico trip, Angulo invoiced the city through the Envirosystems contract to get reimbursed, law enforcement alleges.
The person who created the Salinas campaign video told law enforcement he was paid $7,000 for that video and $6,000 to create the border crossing video.
Salinas and Angulo also face kickback charges. Aguilera told law enforcement that Salinas instructed him to collect $10,000 campaign donations for Salinas’ mayoral campaign and for former Sunland Park City Councilor Angelica Marquez to run for a seat on the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners. The alleged intent was for Marquez – who isn’t charged in this case but is charged in the lap-dance extortion case and a separate voter fraud case – to have influence over the regional utility the city and county jointly run.
Aguilera told law enforcement he collected those donations in the fall of 2011 and provided them to Salinas and Marquez.
The most serious charge Salinas faces in the new criminal complaint is fraud over $20,000, a second-degree felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of nine years. He also faces a third-degree felony charge of conspiracy to commit fraud over $20,000, and fourth-degree felony charges of conspiracy to commit fraud over $2,500, two counts of making or permitting false public vouchers, two counts of conspiracy to commit making or permitting false public vouchers, two counts of soliciting an illegal kickback, two counts of receiving an illegal kickback, two counts of conspiracy to commit soliciting and/or receiving an illegal kickback, two counts of violating of ethical principles of public service, and two counts of prohibited official act for personal financial interest.
Salinas faces a maximum of 34.5 years in prison if convicted on all the charges in the new criminal complaint. Read the complaint here.
Angulo faces a second-degree felony charge of fraud over $20,000, third-degree felony charges of conspiracy to commit fraud over $20,000 and fraud over $2,500, and fourth-degree felony charges of conspiracy to commit fraud over $2,500, two counts of making of permitting false public vouchers, and two counts of conspiracy to commit making or permitting false public vouchers.
He faces a maximum of 22.5 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Read the criminal complaint here.
Hernandez faces a third-degree felony count of fraud over $2,500 and fourth-degree felonies of conspiracy to commit fraud over $2,500, making or permitting false public vouchers, conspiracy to commit making or permitting false public vouchers, and violation of ethical principles of public service.
He faces a maximum of nine years in prison if convicted on all charges in the new criminal complaint. Read the complaint here.
Salinas won’t be mayor
Meanwhile, after the Supreme Court declined to alter Salinas’ conditions of release earlier this week so he could be sworn in as mayor, the deadline for Salinas to take office has passed and he has forfeited the office.
The city is still trying to determine the next steps for finding a new mayor.