Governor’s Former Campaign Manager Sentenced to Prison for Computer Intrusion and False Statement Conviction
ALBUQUERQUE—Jamie Estrada, 41, of Los Lunas, N.M., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson for his conviction on unlawful interception of electronic communications and false statement charges arising out of the unlawful interception of wire communications intended for others, including New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and members of her staff. Estrada was sentenced to nine months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Estrada also was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and to pay a $10,000 fine. Estrada is to voluntarily surrender to a federal correctional institution to be designated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
In announcing Estrada’s sentence, U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez said, “This prosecution demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting Americans from those who seek to violate their privacy. In an electronic age, much of our personal, professional and financial information is repeatedly transmitted on a daily basis by e-mail and other wireless device. Each and every one of us has a right and an expectation of privacy in our electronic communications, including our e-mails, and individuals who violate the law by diverting, stealing or otherwise misappropriating our private communications should face serious consequences.”
“Jamie Estrada stole the e-mails that were the subject of this case, plain and simple. He took private information that didn’t belong to him, and lied about it,” said Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division. “I thank the FBI special agents and professional staff for their hard work on this case, and congratulate the U.S. Attorney’s Office for a successful prosecution. This sentencing occurs during National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which since 2004 has reminded Americans of the importance of protecting our own privacy online as well as our country’s national security.”
Estrada was charged in a 14-count indictment filed in May 2013. The first 12 counts of the indictment alleged that, between July 2011 and June 2012, Estrada unlawfully intercepted wire communication intended for individuals who had e-mail accounts on an Internet domain owned by the Governor’s political organization. The final two counts charged Estrada with making false statements to the FBI in Sept. 2012, in which he denied taking certain actions to unlawfully intercept wire communications as charged in first 12 counts of the indictment. The indictment subsequently was superseded in Oct. 2013 and May 2014 to add two more false statement charges.
According to court filings, in summer 2009, Governor Martinez, who was then the District Attorney in Dona Ana County, N.M., began assembling a political campaign as she prepared to enter the Nov. 2010 gubernatorial race. In July 2009, a political supporter of the Governor registered an Internet domain designated as susana2010.com (the Domain) for a two-year period through an online service. The supporter donated the Domain, including its username and password, to the Governor’s political organization. The username and password were required for making administrative changes to the Domain, including posting content to the Domain’s website and creating e-mail accounts associated with the Domain. They also were required to renew the registration for the Domain, which was scheduled to expire on July 18, 2011. As the owner of the Domain, the Governor’s political organization had the exclusive right to renew the registration before it expired and during a 42-day grace period following the expiration date.
During the gubernatorial campaign, the Domain became an important tool for the Governor’s political organization. Members of the campaign staff, including the Governor, maintained e-mail accounts on the Domain which they used to communicate with each other, the Governor’s political supporters, and the media. Estrada, who joined the Governor’s political organization as the campaign manager in July 2009, was provided with the username and password for the Domain. When Estrada left the campaign in Dec. 2009, the Governor requested that he cooperate in efforts to remove his access to and privileges regarding the campaign’s accounts.
After Governor Martinez was inaugurated in Jan. 2011, the Governor, members of her staff and others continued to use the e-mail accounts associated with the Domain. In July 2011, individuals who had e-mail accounts on the Domain began receiving reports that e-mails sent to those accounts were bouncing back to the senders and soon determined that the e-mails were not getting delivered because the Domain had expired. Their efforts to re-register the Domain were unsuccessful because they could not locate or recall the Domain’s username and password. In July 2011 and as part of their efforts to locate the username and password, the Governor’s staff asked Estrada to provide this information and he did not respond.
On June 16, Estrada entered guilty pleas to Counts 6 and 16 of the second superseding indictment, charging him with unlawful interception of electronic communications and false statements, respectively. In his plea agreement, Estrada admitted that on July 29, 2011, he logged onto the Domain and altered the customer profile using a fictitious name with a Colorado address. Estrada also admitted renewing the Domain under the fictitious name and paid for the renewal with a pre-paid gift card so that the renewal could not be traced back to him.
According to the plea agreement, Estrada changed the settings for the Domain to direct all incoming e-mail to an e-mail account he controlled so that the e-mails were routed to him instead of the intended recipients. From July 2011 through June 2012, Estrada intercepted hundreds of e-mail messages intended for recipients at the Domain, including the Governor. The intercepted e-mails included personal e-mails, internal political communications and e-mails from ordinary citizens to the Governor or her staff. In his plea agreement, Estrada admitted sharing the e-mails he unlawfully intercepted with the Governor’s political opponents to disseminate the e-mails to news media and other outlets.
Estrada admitted unlawfully intercepting an e-mail dated Jan. 4, 2012, which was entitled “Confidential RGA [Republican Governors’ Association] Update” and was intended for the Governor, as charged in Count 6 of the second superseding indictment. In his plea agreement, he also acknowledged unlawfully intercepting the eleven other e-mails described in Counts 1 through 5 and 7 through 12 of the indictment.
Estrada also admitted making false statements to FBI agents on Sept. 19, 2012, when they executed a search warrant at his residence. Specifically, Estrada told the FBI agents that he had not paid for the renewal of the Domain using a pre-paid gift card as charged in Count 16 of the second superseding indictment. In his plea agreement, he also acknowledged making the false statements charged in Counts 13, 14 and 15 of the indictment.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fred J. Federici and Jeremy Pena.