SUNLAND PARK, N.M. >> An affidavit used to support the arrests of a mayoral candidate and the city manager of a troubled New Mexico border town says a video of another mayoral candidate getting a lap dance was downloaded onto the city manager’s office computer the day before an unidentified man tried to use it in a blackmail scheme.
Sunland Park City Councilor Daniel Salinas and City Manager Jaime Aguilera were arrested Saturday evening on charges of extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
The two remained jailed Sunday afternoon at the Dona Ana County Correctional Center, each on $50,000 cash-only bond.
Salinas is one of three candidates seeking the mayor’s post in an upcoming election in the southern New Mexico town that borders Texas and Mexico.
One of his opponents, Gerardo Hernandez, has told investigators that an unidentified man threatened to blackmail him on Feb. 16 if he didn’t drop out of the race, by releasing a video of a topless woman dancing for him. Hernandez also said the man had produced a still image from the video to bolster the threat.
Hernandez maintains he was set up when an unidentified woman began to dance topless before him in a campaign office. He said he didn’t know the incident was being recorded.
The affidavit said key evidence leading to the arrests of Salinas and Aguilera included analysis of Aguilera’s office computer, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/xQJlY7). The analysis revealed the extortion video was downloaded to Aguilera’s office computer the day before Hernandez was approached.
Authorities said in the affidavit that the computer analysis showed the video was opened with editing software on Aguilera’s computer and that a still image was taken from the video and enhanced to make Hernandez’s face more visible.
Investigators also obtained footage from City Hall surveillance cameras showing Salinas entering Aguilera’s office with a laptop computer on Feb. 15. A time stamp on the surveillance video corresponds with the time stamp when Aguilera accessed the extortion video and edited a still photo from it, according to the arrest warrant.
A message left by The Associated Press for Salinas wasn’t immediately returned on Sunday afternoon. Aguilera doesn’t have a listed phone number. And no one answered a call to Hernandez’s phone.
Aguilera had told the Journal on Thursday that the video showing Hernandez getting a lap dance was not stored on any City Hall computer.
Salinas has said that neither he nor his campaign was involved in the production of the video, nor had they been informed of its existence before Hernandez was approached.
Hernandez said in a statement published by the Journal that he has acknowledged mistakes he has made. "For anyone to deliberately and intentionally cause harm to my family because of my personal bad judgment is disturbing," he said in the statement.
Authorities armed with a search warrant cleared out a portion of City Hall on Tuesday as they seized surveillance camera equipment and records aimed at determining who approached Hernandez in the City Hall parking lot on Feb. 16.
On Friday, investigators used search warrants to seize Salinas’ pickup truck and cellphones, and Aguilera’s office computer and cellphone.