Two city hall employees in Sunland Park, N.M., are wanted in an alleged blackmail investigation of a mayoral candidate that has already snared the city's acting mayor and city manager.
Dario Hernandez, the Sunland Park public works director, and Martah Alonda Lozano, a human resources assistant, are wanted in connection with the alleged extortion of mayoral candidate Gerardo Hernandez, who is not related to Dario Hernandez.
Last week a video of Gerardo Hernandez surfaced which appeared to show him receiving a lap dance at his office.
According to District Attorney Amy Orlando, who has been investigating the case, Gerardo claimed that the video had been a set up by his political rivals and that he had been approached prior to the video's release and told to drop out of the mayoral election or risk having the video go public.
On Saturday New Mexico State Police arrested Sunland Park's Mayor Pro-Tem Daniel Salinas and Jaime Aguilera, the city manager. They are being charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence for the alleged blackmailing of Gerardo Hernandez.
The pair were jailed at Dona Ana County Correctional Center, each on $50,000 cash-only bond.
Their arrests came five days after the New Mexico State Police executed a search warrant at the Sunland Park City Hall.
According to the arrest affidavit released by Orlando, as the police were executing that search, surveillance video captured Dario Hernandez telling Aguilera, "They are coming, get rid of the video."
After the search,according to New Mexico State Police Public Information Officer Robert McDonald, investigators found footage of Gerardo Hernandez with a nude woman that was being manipulated with editing software on Aguilera's computer.
In addition to Dario Hernandez warning Aguilera, Lozano was seen by police running towards the mayor's office as they entered building. Lozano allegedly then locked the door, before quickly leaving out of a separate exit.
The arrest affidavit stated that once police were able to access the mayor's office they found his desk "in disarray, computer cables were left exposed." In addition they believed at least one computer was missing.
Orlando said New Mexico law enforcement were working with the Texas police on apprehending Lozano and Dario Hernandez, since both staffers are residents of El Paso, Texas.
While the Sunland Park mayoral election will officially be held on March 6, early voting has already started. The election is being held to replace Martin Resendiz, who resigned last year after admitting to signing contracts while intoxicated.
Gerardo Hernandez said he had become disheartened by the ordeal.
"To tell you the truth, I never expected the election to go this far," Gerardo Hernandez told ABC News affiliate ABC7 KVIA . "This is my first time in politics. I thought I was just going to present a program (to voters) and see who gets more votes."