Monday, August 19, 2013

Political Consultant Gutierrez Gets 10 Years in Federal Pen

Political consultant Armando C. Gutierrez sentenced to 10 years in prison plus $2.5 million in restitution for misusing federal funds from a contract with the New Mexico Secretary of State's office. Gutierrez was convicted in February on charges including conspiracy, theft of government property, obstruction of justice and money laundering.

Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron hired Gutierrez -- a former Albuquerque resident who worked on several campaigns of prominent Democrats -- to produce voter-education TV ads. He received more than $6 million in federal election money between 2004 and 2006.

But audits showed he could not account for more than $2.5 million of work under his contracts.

Vigil-Giron initially was indicted in the case in state court, but the charges against her eventually were dismissed.

Others convicted in the case were lobbyist Joe Kupfer and his wife Daisy. Gutierrez paid Kupfer's company more than $746,000, the government said, but never produced any documentation for hiring the company.

Daisy Kupfer was sentenced in May to three years in prison. Joe Kupfer is scheduled for sentencing next month.

As a political consultant, Gutierrez produced Spanish-language ads for former President Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign and Al Gore's 2000 presidential race. He also worked on Gov. Bill Richardson's 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

Before his contract with the Secretary of State's Office, he had two contracts with then-state Attorney General Patricia Madrid's office in 2000 and 2001, and another with the state tourism and transportation departments in 2004.

His 2000 contract with Madrid's office, which appears to be for media work, was amended six times during five fiscal years, former New Mexican reporter Kate Nash reported in 2009. The original contract was worth $150,000, but amendments boosted the contract's worth to as much as $1.108 million, records show.

In announcing the sentence, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough said in a news release, “Those who do business with the government must be held to the same high standards as government officials.  When private citizens enter into contracts to provide services paid for with taxpayers’ monies, they become duty bound to provide honest services for the monies they receive. ... When individuals – whether public officials or government contractors – abuse the public’s trust in this way, they corrupt the system and erode the public’s confidence in their government."

King said in the same news release, “I am pleased that the fruits of our investigation were used to help secure convictions against those who violated the public trust.  I highly commend our AG investigators for their hard work in tracking down the misuse of public funds that led to this prosecution.  I very much appreciate the cooperation extended to my office by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”