Jury: Ex-New Mexico state tax chief guilty of embezzlement

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A jury has found New Mexico’s former state tax chief guilty of embezzling more than $25,000 from a trucking business while she served in former Gov. Susana Martinez’s cabinet.

Demesia Padilla, 61, could face up to 18 years in prison when she is sentenced for her conviction Friday on embezzlement and intent to defraud charges. A sentencing date was not immediately set.

Padilla’s attorney, Paul J. Kennedy, did not immediately respond Saturday to a telephone message.

Jurors deliberated about two hours before returning the verdicts, state attorney general’s office spokesman Matt Baca, told The New Mexican of Santa Fe.

Prosecutors told the jury that between 2011 and 2013, while she was cabinet secretary, Padilla linked her personal credit card to the checking account of a Bernalillo business.

Padilla was an original member of Martinez’s Republican administration. She resigned in late 2016 during a state attorney general’s office investigation of her business dealings.

Padilla maintained that she stopped working for the company when she became Taxation and Revenue secretary, but investigators said her husband signed off on the trucking company’s tax returns for several more years.

Padilla was initially charged with embezzlement and public corruption, but a state judge in Santa Fe dismissed five ethics charges in 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported.