Former New Mexico State Senator Released from Prison
Manny Aragon, 66, a former New Mexico state Senate leader, was released from federal prison on December 5, 2013. Although most federal prisoners are sent to a halfway house to complete the remainder of their sentence, Aragon was released to home confinement at his house in Albuquerque.
“He’s still subject to our rules and regulations and accountability monitoring,” said Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke.
Aragon served three decades in the state legislature, rising to the position of Senate President Pro Tem, and was one of New Mexico’s most powerful Democrats. However, his lengthy political career was eclipsed by the sordid details of his downfall: A scandal that involved skimming $4.4 million from a project to build the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse. Aragon, who admitted taking $600,000 from the courthouse project, was one of several defendants prosecuted in the scandal.
He pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and fraud charges in 2008 and was sentenced to 67 months in prison, plus a $750,000 fine and $649,000 in restitution. He served around 4½ years before being released.
Aragon was also known for flip-flopping on the issue of prison privatization. Initially opposed to private prisons, he changed his mind after being hired as a consultant by Wackenhut Corrections (now the GEO Group) in 1998, while still serving in the state Senate. He later withdrew from his consulting job with Wackenhut after facing criticism for having a conflict of interest. [See: PLN, Aug. 2007, p.13; Dec. 1999, p.1].
In spite of his conviction, Aragon continues to receive his state pension of almost $2,300 per month, and reportedly used those funds to make restitution payments while incarcerated. New Mexico passed a law in 2012 that allows revocation of state pensions when public officials are convicted of felonies, but the law was not made retroactive.
Sources: www.watchdog.org, www.abqjournal.com
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