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Former El Paso County Judge Sentenced to Federal Prison for Role in Conspiracy to Embezzle Federal Program Funds

U.S. Attorney’s Office March 22, 2013
  • District of New Mexico (505) 346-7274

ALBUQUERQUE—Former El Paso County Judge Dolores Briones, 61, was sentenced this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring to embezzle federal program funds, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales for the District of New Mexico and Special Agent in Charge Mark Morgan of the El Paso Division of the FBI.

Briones, who currently resides in Austin, Texas, will be on supervised release for three years after completing her prison sentence. She also is required to pay $36,000 in restitution.

In December 2011, Briones pled guilty to conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement of federal program funds. In entering her guilty plea, Briones admitted that, from June 2005 through December 2006, she conspired with Ruben “Sonny” Garcia, Jr., then president of L.K.G. Enterprises Inc. (LKG), and Cirilo “Chilo” Lara Madrid to accept bribes in exchange for her assistance to LKG involving a federal program grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The SAMHSA grant included an evaluation component requiring that data related to the services provided by the Border Children’s Mental Health Collaborative (BCMHC), a health care program for severely mentally handicapped and emotionally disturbed children in El Paso County, be reported to SAMHSA. In November 2005, El Paso County contracted with LKG to collect the necessary data. Subsequently, Garcia and Madrid agreed to pay $3,000 a month to Briones, who was serving as the principal investigator for the SAMHSA grant, to assist and help LKG’s efforts to maintain and keep the contract. Thereafter, Garcia and Madrid, through LKG, made 12 monthly payments of $3,000 to an intermediary, who forwarded $2,000 a month to Briones pursuant to her illegal agreement with Garcia and Madrid. Briones illegally obtained $24,000 through this scheme.

“Today’s sentencing of Briones sends a strong message regarding the FBI’s continued commitment to aggressively pursue individuals who have violated the public’s trust through their own greed, personal gain, and total abdication of the duties they were sworn to up-hold,” said Mark Morgan, Special Agent in Charge of the El Paso Division of the FBI. “Briones, holding one the highest positions of trust within our justice system, shattered the very essence of core values by her actions and has left a city questioning their confidence in the very officials they rely on to provide them protection and safety—this cannot be tolerated.”

This case was investigated by the El Paso Division of the FBI and was prosecuted by Steven C. Yarbrough, First Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of New Mexico, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William F. Lewis, Jr. and Juanita Fielden in the Western District of Texas.