Risk Management

Do You Know Where Your State Treasurer Is?

The ex-purse-holders of South Carolina and New Mexico strayed into cocaine and kickbacks.
Stephen TaubSeptember 6, 2007

While one might well wonder if they attended the same parties, they weren’t members of the same party. Two former state treasurers, one a South Carolina Republican and the other a New Mexico Democrat, admitted to cocaine and kickback charges, respectively, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

In one case, Thomas Ravenel, an ex-treasurer of South Carolina, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess cocaine with an intent to distribute. A one-time rising political star and former state chairman for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, admitted during a hearing that he bought cocaine from a number of different sellers and said he used the drug sometimes as often as once a week, according to AP. “I pled guilty today because I was guilty,” Ravenel reportedly stated after the hearing. “I’m very remorseful for my behavior.”

For his part, Michael Montoya, a former treasurer of New Mexico, admitted that he played a role in a kickback scheme. His testimony in a federal prosecution of another former state treasurer spawned the case against Montoya, a Democrat who pleaded guilty to a state racketeering charge, the wire service reported.

Ravenel, who was charged along with two other people, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute about a pound of cocaine, according to the McClatchy newspapers.
Under his plea arrangement, the former state official will get a reduced sentence in return for helping prosecutors with an investigation.

Among 16 state criminal charges Montoya had faced were soliciting or receiving illegal kickbacks and receiving or demanding bribes, AP reported. Besides the single racketeering count, all other charges against him were dismissed, although there is still no sentencing agreement. Defense lawyers had argued that the state rarely brings charges against witnesses for criminal activities they testified about while cooperating in a federal case.

Montoya had reportedly been a key witness for federal prosecutors in the case against Robert Vigil, who served as deputy treasurer under Montoya and succeeded him in the top job. Vigil is serving a three-year federal prison sentence for his conviction last year on a charge of attempted extortion. State prosecutors charged that Montoya and Vigil demanded kickbacks from investment advisers in return for steering state business their way, according the AP. But only Montoya who will be sentenced Nov. 1 and could get up to nine years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, was charged in the state case.