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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

By Joseph Kolb

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Reuters) — New Mexico’s Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of embezzlement and campaign finance violations, court documents showed, a day after she resigned from office.

Under the terms of a plea deal with prosecutors, Duran also admitted in Santa Fe District Court to charges of money laundering, according to her plea agreement.

Duran’s attorney, Erlinda Johnson of Albuquerque, said Duran resigned late on Thursday but she gave no other details.

Duran is due to be sentenced on Dec. 14, the office of New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement.

Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of five years of supervised probation, according to the plea agreement.

In August, Balderas’ office filed a 64-count criminal case that also included charges of fraud, conspiracy, tampering with public records and government misconduct. The complaint pointed to the discrepancy between Duran’s income and the amount of money she had spent at casinos.

Under the plea agreement, the counts to which Duran did not plead guilty were dismissed.

The complaint said Duran had used campaign contributions for personal expenses, and said the investigation began from a tip that she had deposited large amounts of money into her personal bank account that did not match her known income.

Funds were transferred between her personal and campaign-affiliated accounts. “This behavior often culminates in large debits for cash expenditures occurring at casinos throughout the state of New Mexico,” according to the complaint.

More than $430,000 was withdrawn from Duran’s bank accounts for cash expenses incurred at eight casinos between 2013 and 2014, roughly as much as she reported on her joint tax returns from 2010 to 2013 combined, according to the complaint.

“I am hopeful that this resolution will begin to rebuild the public trust and compel the new leadership to improve oversight and compliance in our campaign finance system and electoral process,” Balderas said in a statement.

New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Debbie Maestas said in a statement the party respected Duran’s decision to step down “and help restore credibility to the Secretary of State’s Office.”

(Additional reporting by Zelie Pollon in Santa Fe; Writing by Suzannah Gonzales and Alex Dobuzinskis,; Editing by Susan Heavey and Andrea Ricci)

Photo: Former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran (R), via Twitter.