ALBUQUERQUE ― Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division announced that Larry Mendoza, a former Revenue Agent of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, has pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act extortion charges in Federal Court in Albuquerque.
Mendoza, 44, of Santa Fe, pled guilty to a three-count felony information charging him with Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right. The felony information alleges that, between February 2017 and May 2017, Mendoza abused his position as a state Revenue Agent to extort an aggregate of $2,500 from a business owner in return for reducing the business owner’s tax liability. Mendoza entered the guilty plea under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the plea agreement, Mendoza was employed by the New Mexico State Taxation and Revenue Department from 2007 through 2017. Beginning in October 2013, Mendoza began working as a Revenue Agent with responsibilities that included collecting outstanding taxes owed by New Mexico business owners. In February 2017, Mendoza approached a business owner with a proposal that the business owner pay him $500 a month in exchange for Mendoza lowering the business owner’s tax obligation to the State of New Mexico.
After the business owner gave Mendoza $500 in February 2017 and another additional $500 in March 2017, Mendoza logged onto his work computer May 11, 2017 and reduced the business owner’s tax liability to the State of New Mexico by $8,000. On that same day (May 11, 2017), Mendoza solicited another $1,500 from the business owner in exchange for reducing his tax obligation. May 24, 2017, the business owner gave $1,500 to Mendoza in exchange for Mendoza’s reduction of the business owner’s tax obligation to the State of New Mexico.
In entering his guilty plea, Mendoza admitted that the money he solicited and received from the business owner was for his personal use and benefit, and that he was not entitled to that money. Mendoza also admitted that he engaged in a similar pattern of criminal conduct with other business owners and that his criminal conduct was responsible for losses in excess of $40,000.
The New Mexico State Taxation and Revenue Department placed Mendoza on administrative leave May 24, 2017, and his employment was terminated shortly thereafter.
At sentencing, Mendoza faces a statutory penalty of imprisonment for not more than 20 years and a fine not to exceed $250,000. Mendoza was released under pretrial supervision and other conditions of release pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
The FBI offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe investigated the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Holland S. Kastrin.