The New Mexico US Attorney's Office has indicted Jamie Estrada, a former campaign worker for Gov. Susana Martinez, for "computer intrusion and false statement charges."
This is a major development in the "Emailgate" scandal, in which Martinez staffers have claimed that a cache of leaked emails were actually stolen.
The indictment alleges that, when the "susana2010.com" domain expired, Estrada bought it under a false name and used it to intercept emails sent by top Martinez staffers on their campaign accounts.
An indictment is merely an allegation of wrongdoing. Estrada remains innocent until proven guilty. An arraignment hearing has not been scheduled, according to the US Attorney's office.
Although one of SFR's recent stories relied on unnamed sources to break news about a possible investigation of a lucrative racino lease in Albuquerque, Estrada was not among those sources.
Named by both the Albuquerque Journal and New Mexico Business Weekly (Now Albuquerque Business First) as a rising star, Estrada served as a US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush in the mid-2000s. In 2010, he ran an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Public Regulation Commission.
Estrada's legal matters means he will not be appearing as a panelist on local public television for some time, writes New Mexico PBS' Matt Grubs in an email to SFR.
Estrada released the following statement today:
While the U.S. Attorney's allegation of wrongdoing on my part is regrettable, I want to make it clear that I have not broken any laws or done anything improper. Nor was I dismissed from my job as interim campaign manager for Governor Martinez. Everyone knows that "the best defense is a good offense." Individuals in whom the public has placed its trust have come after me in an attempt to divert attention from their own improper actions, including the suspected Albuquerque Downs Racino bid rigging. I have every faith that not only will I be found innocent, but also that this attack on me will result in exposure of the true wrongdoers, once and for all. Governor Susana Martinez released a statement vindicating her assertions for the past year: The federal felony indictment today vindicates what I have been saying for almost a full year—that the personal and political emails of dozens of people, including my own, were hijacked, stolen, and never received by the intended recipients.
Thousands of New Mexicans are victims of identity theft and cyber crimes each year, and I hope the indictment today sends a strong message that no one deserves to have their privacy invaded. Even in the world of politics, issues should be the subject of tough and vigorous debates, but there are clear lines that should not be crossed and committing federal felony crimes to invade the personal privacy of political opponents is one of them.
I knew the defendant to be a man of suspect character. That is why I fired him from my campaign in 2009 and why I rejected him for a position within my administration after being elected.
Unfortunately, the stolen emails were passed to Bill Richardson's former private investigator and numerous others, in order to exact the defendant's revenge on me through disseminating, and grossly misrepresenting, those emails. I am grateful for the professional work done by the FBI and the United States Attorney's office and have complete confidence that justice will be done in this case.
Michael Corwin, a Martinez critic who runs the liberal Independent Source PAC and leaked many of the emails in question to the media, released a statement of his own:
It should be noted that of the 12 emails cited in the indictment, none pertain to the public record communications between high ranking members of Governor Susana Martinez's administration and representatives of the Downs at Albuquerque during the contract procurement period. Further, none of the emails cited pertain to the public record communication between high ranking members of the Martinez Administration, including the Public Education Department, regarding the apparent misuse of public resources intended for Governor Martinez's political benefit.
This indictment in no way minimizes the apparent illegal conduct by Martinez and her administration as identified in the emails on which we previously reported. As any responsible person investigating and reporting on government misconduct, I will continue to protect my sources. Here's the full release from the US Attorney. Scroll down for a copy of the indictment.
ALBUQUERQUE — U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales and Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, announced that a federal grand jury has indicted Jamie Estrada, 40, of Los Lunas, N.M., on computer intrusion and false statement charges. The charges against Estrada arise out of the interception of wire communications intended for others, including New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and members of her staff.
Counts 1 through 12 of the 14-count indictment allege that Estrada unlawfully intercepted wire communication intended for individuals who had email accounts on an internet domain owned by the Governor's political organization. According to the indictment, the unlawful interceptions occurred between July 2011 and June 2012. Counts 13 and 14 charge Estrada with making false statements to the FBI in Sept. 2012, in which he allegedly denied taking certain actions to unlawfully intercept wire communications as charged in Counts 1 through 12 of the indictment. Estrada's arraignment hearing has yet to be scheduled.
In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, "This indictment reflects the high value that my Office places on preserving the integrity of our electronic communications in a digital age. In a time when so much of our personal, professional and financial information is repeatedly transmitted on a daily basis over email and other means of wire communication, it is of paramount importance that we protect electronic information from being diverted, stolen or otherwise misappropriated."
Special Agent in Charge Lee added, "Thousands of intrusions into corporate networks, personal computers, and government systems occur daily, threatening our privacy, business secrets and even national security. The Albuquerque FBI Division has devoted considerable resources into confronting this growing cyber threat, which is why this indictment today is so important to us. I would like to congratulate the FBI Special Agents and professional staff for their hard work on this case, as well as the U.S. Attorney's Office. The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue individuals who would violate other people's privacy not by breaking into homes and offices, but by sneaking into computers and wireless devices."
According to the indictment, in summer 2009, Governor Martinez, who was then the District Attorney in Dona Ana County, N.M., began assembling a political campaign as she prepared to enter the Nov. 2010 gubernatorial race. In July 2009, one of the Governor's early political supporters registered an internet domain that was designated as www.susana2010.com (the Domain) for a two-year period through an online service. The supporter then donated the Domain, including its username and password, to the Governor's political organization. The username and password were required for making administrative changes to the Domain, including posting content to the Domain's website and creating email accounts associated with the Domain. The username and password also were required to renew the registration for the Domain, which was scheduled to expire on July 18, 2011. As the owner of the Domain, the Governor's political organization had the exclusive right to renew the registration before it expired and during a 42-day grace period following the expiration date.
The indictment alleges that, during the gubernatorial campaign, the Domain became an important tool for the Governor's political organization. Members of the campaign staff, including Governor Martinez, maintained email accounts on the Domain which they used to communicate with each other as well with the Governor's political supporters and the media. Estrada allegedly joined the Governor's political organization as the campaign manager in July 2009, and, in that capacity, was provided with the username and password for the Domain. Estrada allegedly left the campaign in Dec. 2009. Before his departure, the Governor allegedly sent Estrada an email requesting that he return all information belonging to the campaign, including any usernames and passwords to any accounts.
After Governor Martinez was inaugurated in Jan. 2011, the Governor, members of her staff and others continued to use the email accounts associated with the Domain. In July 2011, individuals who had email accounts on the Domain began receiving reports that emails sent to those accounts were bouncing back to the senders and soon determined that the emails were not getting delivered because the Domain had expired. Their efforts to re-register the Domain were unsuccessful because they could not locate or recall the Domain's username and password. In July 2011 and as part of their efforts to locate the username and password, the Governor's staff allegedly asked Estrada to provide this information and Estrada allegedly refused to comply with the request.
According to the indictment, in late July 2011, Estrada allegedly used the username and password to renew the Domain and to change the Domain's settings so that, instead of going to their intended recipients, incoming email communications were directed to an email account on a different domain that was controlled by Estrada. As a result, between late July 2011 and June 2012, Estrada allegedly received email communications intended for recipients, including Governor Martinez and members of her staff, who had email accounts associated with the Domain.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John C. Anderson and Fred J. Federici.
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