- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A former New Mexico state senator who resigned abruptly last year has been charged with fraud and other counts over his role in the sale of a state-owned building, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office announced Monday

In a nine-count criminal complaint filed in district court in Santa Fe, prosecutors said Phil Griego used his role as a legislator to receive personal compensation in the real estate deal and then failed to disclose it as required by state law.

The complaint also said the former Democratic senator withheld the commission owed to each of his qualifying brokers and failed to disclose his interest in the deal.

He also failed “to alert anyone to factual inaccuracies and misstatements made at various times regarding the sale,” the attorney general’s office said.

The complaint charges Griego with fraud, perjury, tampering with public records and financial disclosure violations.

Griego told The Associated Press he was unaware of the criminal complaint filed Monday and vowed to fight all charges.

“I absolutely did nothing wrong,” Griego said. “I’m flabbergasted. I don’t know what this is about. This is my reputation here.”

In March 2015, Griego abruptly resigned from his post in District 39, which includes parts of six counties, including Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Torrance, Santa Fe and Valencia. His resignation came while the Legislature was still in session.

Griego had drawn scrutiny in the final weeks of the session over the real estate deal involving a Santa Fe building. Griego was one of several lawmakers who approved the sale of the building that used to belong to the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

The buyer, Galisteo Street Inc., later hired Griego to act as its agent in the purchase. Griego was promised a $50,000 commission fee if the sale closed, according to a copy of the agreement. He was still in office at the time.

According to state’s legislative ethics guide, lawmakers cannot be even indirectly interested in “any contract with the state or a municipality authorized by any law passed during the legislators’ terms for one year thereafter.”

Griego, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, said he didn’t know about the one-year rule.

The criminal complaint came just weeks after Senate Democrats derailed efforts to create an independent ethic commission in New Mexico. Senate Democrats said they worried the commission could be used as a forum for false accusations designed to inflict political damage.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .


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