Charges against woman accused of embezzlement in Sunland Park case dropped

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A woman accused of embezzling more than $250,000 has been cleared.

District Attorney Mark D'Antonio dismissed the case. He called it "weak."

The New Mexico State Police investigated the case. Chief Pete Kassetas told ABC-7 he finds the DA's statements unprofessional.

"My guys are good. They're good at what they do. They know how to follow a paper trail and there is a paper trail that exists," Kassetas said.

Annette Morales, 50, was arrested in 2012. She was accused of embezzling more than $250,000 from the city of Sunland Park.

Her case was connected to the Sunland Park corruption scandal.

D'Antonio said the decision to dismiss the case was simple.

"We knew it was weak as far as evidence. You can make allegations all day long, but
in a court of law you have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The facts we had present did not support further pursuit of that case," D'Antonio said.

D'Antonio originally thought there was a conflict of interest with the case in his office. He passed the case to the 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office in Alamogordo.

Both that DA and former Dona Ana County DA Amy Orlando planned on prosecuting the case.

"This puzzled us because we reviewed the case and felt it should go forward and we intended on going forward obviously as we accepted the case," said Scot Key, deputy district attorney for the 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

"There's two district attorneys that made inroads to prosecuting a case which ultimately benefits the taxpayers. That's where the $250,000-plus came from. To just drop the case and call it 'garbage' is irresponsible," Kassetas said.

D'Antonio said attorneys within the state attorney general's office agreed the case should be dropped.

"We were told by the investigators that the Annette Morales case was an extremely weak case in their eyes. I had a lot of attorneys look at this case. Everybody agreed there wasn't enough evidence to go forward," D'Antonio told ABC-7

Kassetas said his agency was never told the DA had an issue with the case.

"It's a very confusing statement. It sends a very bad message to the bad guys out there. It does. If you're going to commit white-collar crime, the place to go is Dona Ana County. That's unfortunate," Kassetas said.

ABC-7 called the AG's office to find out what their attorneys thought about the case. We did not get a response.

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