Probe Focuses On Las Cruces Businessman

Las Cruces – A Las Cruces businessman entangled in an alleged pay-to-play scheme for judicial appointments has contributed more than $50,000 to former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson and played a role in Richardson hiring a state investment officer who's been implicated in a separate public corruption scandal.

Edgar Lopez, who runs a real estate investment business, is portrayed by government investigators as a power broker who helped secure appointments for those wanting to serve on Dona Ana County courts.

District Judge Michael Murphy of Las Cruces pleaded not guilty on Friday to felony bribery charges in the ongoing pay-to-play investigation.

Lopez has not been charged with a crime and Richardson denies that campaign contributions influenced his judicial appointments.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.