State consultants guilty in $2.5M theft

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — A federal jury late Thursday convicted two former consultants to the Secretary of State's Office of stealing $2.5 million in funds intended to boost voter participation in elections.

Armando Gutierrez, 65, now of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Joseph Kupfer of Rio Rancho were both found guilty of conspiracy and theft of government property, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Gutierrez was also convicted of obstruction of justice and money laundering.

Jury deliberations lasted about three hours.

"The message behind the jury’s guilty verdict is that those who do business with government agencies will be held to the same high standards as government officials," U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said in a statement released by his office.  "When anyone, including public official and government contractors, abuses the public’s trust in this way, they corrupt the system and erode the public’s confidence in their government."

The trial lasted eight days and centered on the Help America Vote Act and the spending of nearly $20 million in related funding by then-Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron from April 2003 through 2006.

Gutierrez's company was awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to produce voter-related advertising while Kupfer acted as a consultant.

Testimony and evidence indicated the secretary of state's office paid invoices on the contracts without supporting documentation for the work allegedly performed.

Kupfer and his wife, Elizabeth Kupfer, 50, a former employee of the state Attorney General's Office, were previously convicted of tax evasion for concealing nearly $800,000 in income from the voter act contracts.

Sentencing dates for Gutierrez and Joseph Kupfer have not been set.  Elizabeth Kupfer is scheduled to be sentenced on the tax-evasion conviction on March 25.

Vigil-Giron also was charged with state crimes in the case, but a judge dismissed the charges saying the Attorney General's Office took too long in bringing the case to trial.  The AG has appealed that decision arguing most of the delays were not the fault of prosecutors.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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