By Barry Massey
The Associated Press
SANTA FE — A former campaign manager for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was indicted Thursday on federal charges of hacking the campaign’s email system and obtaining correspondence by the governor, her staff and supporters.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales announced the indictments in Albuquerque against Jamie Estrada of Los Lunas, who briefly served as campaign manager in 2009 as Martinez was starting her bid for governor.
The governor’s office had asked last year for a federal investigation of possible hacking after a union-funded political action committee released several emails that showed the governor and top aides used private email addresses to discuss government business.
The disclosures led the GOP governor to order state workers to end the practice of using nongovernment email accounts.
Prosecutors alleged that Estrada used password and username information to change the computer account for the governor’s 2010 campaign organization after Martinez took office as governor in 2011.
When Martinez and her aides sent electronic messages through the campaign email system, however, the emails were directed to a computer account controlled by Estrada, according to the indictment.
Some email was leaked to Martinez critics such as the union-funded group, Independent Source PAC.
In a statement announcing the indictment, Gonzales said, “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.”
A lawyer for Estrada did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Estrada’s arraignment has not been scheduled yet.
The PAC publicly released some email that came through the Martinez campaign system, contending it showed there was influence peddling in the awarding of a 25-year lease that allows a horse racing track to build a larger casino at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The lease deal was approved in 2011 with Martinez’s support. The administration maintains there was no preferential treatment.
Independent Source PAC’s executive director, Michael Corwin, has maintained the group received the emails from a source who assured him the messages were obtained legally.