Voter Fraud Allegations in Mayoral Election Rock New Mexico City

Eric Shawn, Fox News, May 17, 2012

There is perhaps no other city in the country like Sunland Park, N.M.

The dusty border town minutes from El Paso, Texas, has been called “a city in chaos” by the state auditor, because a slew of public officials are facing felony charges that they ran City Hall like a personal piggy bank, tried to steal an election in order to remain in power and ruled the 14,000 residents through intimidation and fear.

The state is now moving to take over financial oversight of the city, as the council scrambles to try and name a new mayor.

The explosive case even involves Mexican prostitutes, strippers and an undercover video of a mayoral candidate getting a lap dance from a topless woman. The video allegedly was used to try to force him to drop out of the race.

Authorities say the extortion investigation has revealed widespread voter fraud and public corruption in the small city just south of the Rio Grande.

“It started with extortion charges, and from that it then led us to the voter fraud cases,” says Dona Ana Third Judicial District Attorney Amy Orlando, who is prosecuting the growing case.

So far, her office has charged 12 people, many public officials and city employees, including 28-year-old Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas, who faces dozens of charges in four separate cases. He was barred from taking office, and the city has been without a mayor since the election on March 6. {snip}

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Salinas and others are charged with extortion over the tape. Prosecutors say the Salinas faction used city money to make the tape and pay for the topless dancer.

“They tried to get me out of the race,” Hernandez said. “I said, well, I’m not going to withdraw from the race. If you want to show it to the media, show it. I am not going to withdraw. That’s extortion.”

He says despite the salacious video, most of the people in Sunland Park support him because “they knew it was a set-up. They knew we’re human. I felt it was a very cowardly act.”

Prosecutors are also investigating about 170 votes that they believe are fraudulent, including the ballots of residents of nearby El Paso who illegally voted in Sunland Park.

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