Sunland Park, N.M. – 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. Isabel Santos is serving as mayor pro tem in the meantime.
The criminal charges against all the defendants range from voter fraud to bribery to extortion to conspiracy to kickbacks to blackmail.
“The whole common scheme was to get Mr. Salinas elected,” Orlando told Fox News. “It was all done to further Daniel Salinas and the other people who wanted to stay in control of all the money, all the resources, which just hurts all of the citizens of Sunland Park.”
Among the allegations are charges that city workers registered people who didn’t even live in New Mexico and convinced them to vote for Salinas during early voting.
In addition, absentee ballot applications were allegedly intercepted before reaching the city clerk, so that Salinas’ opponents could not hand them out to their supporters.
“They pressured the poor, old people, the people who don’t know English. They were forced to sign without knowing what they were signing. It’s incredible, it’s disgusting,” mayoral candidate Gerardo Hernandez told Fox News.
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