ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A former Democratic legislative leader who was convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud for his role in an Albuquerque courthouse fraud scandal was released from federal prison Thursday.
Manny Aragon, 66, had been serving time in Colorado since June 2009, said federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Ed Ross.
Prison officials said Aragon has served enough of his 5 1/2-year sentence to make him eligible for a halfway house. It’s not immediately clear where Aragon would be going.
Aragon’s attorney, Ray Twohig, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Aragon was accused of pocketing $650,000 in a scheme with four other people to bilk the state out of $4.2 million during construction of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse.
Prosecutors had said the kickbacks were given to Aragon and other defendants after false invoices were submitted to the state. The money often came in bundles of thousands of dollars at a time.
Aragon pleaded guilty in 2008 to three federal felony counts of conspiracy and mail fraud. In addition to his prison sentence, he was fined $750,000 — the bulk of which he forfeited to the government — and was ordered to pay at least $649,000 in restitution.
Still, Aragon collects yearly legislative retirement benefits of $27,311, with his pension payments totally $204,000 since he retired in 2005.
The Albuquerque Democrat had served in the state Senate for 29 years and was once one of New Mexico’s most powerful politicians.
During his sentencing in March 2009, he broke down in tears as he gave a rambling 20-minute speech before the court in which he talked about his early years and his life in politics. His convictions also cost him his position as president of New Mexico Highlands University.
Prosecutors had pointed to Aragon’s sentence as a message to public officials that corruption in New Mexico would be punished.