I have known Jim Skinner since the early 1990s. I worked with him when I was the director of prosecutions and investigations for the New Mexico State Attorney General and he was the Chief Investigator for the Ninth Judicial District Attorney.
I served as the Director of Prosecutions for four consecutive Attorneys General, beginning in 1978. In the 90s, there were several important cases that arose in the Ninth Judicial District, which turned out to have statewide importance that called for the involvement of the attorney general’s office and the prosecutors and investigators whom I supervised.
Because of Jim’s experience in law enforcement and his expertise in directing complex investigations of difficult white-collar and political corruption criminal cases, he invariably became the point person for those cases that were ultimately developed by the combined resources of the district attorney and attorney general, working together with local, state, and on occasion federal law enforcement agencies.
Some of these cases required intensive investigations that lasted many months before any decision to charge was made, and months after charges were filed in preparing for trial. One example was the case involving a national fraudulent boiler room operation located in Southern California, calling senior citizens throughout the country including citizens of New Mexico. The case was discovered by Jim in his efforts to assist an elderly citizen, living in Curry County who felt she had been defrauded by the many false promises that had been made to her by manipulative callers from that out-of-state criminal boiler room enterprise seeking victims wherever they could be found and fooled.
Based on Jim’s investigation, the state attorney general combined forces with the local district attorney and targeted this out-of-state criminal conspiracy that was victimizing New Mexico elder citizens to the tune of many thousands of dollars that none of these elder and handicapped victims could afford to lose. As the investigation proceeded to unfold, it was discovered that the same criminal enterprise, along with several other criminal boiler rooms operating in other states, were also being investigated by a joint taskforce that had been formed by the United States Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Based on the investigation that was initiated and then coordinated on a day-by-day basis by Jim, this case became the main leverage to obtain the cooperation of some of the less culpable co-conspirators, once they found themselves facing charges and jail in New Mexico, and ultimately led to both state and federal indictments of multiple out of state defendants. The subsequent convictions and prison sentences put a serious dent in what was becoming an epidemic of this form of organized crime against our elder citizens throughout the country.
One of the more humorous moments in this case was when Oceanside Police Department officers encountered one of the targets of our case in a hotel room on a totally unrelated matter. When approached by these police officers, he blurted out that he was hiding from “a New Mexico detective named Skinner.” The Oceanside police discovered a bag full of computer hard drives in this hotel room and then tracked Jim down in New Mexico that very night. The next day, Jim was on a plane to California. This suspect told Jim that the hard drives held the records of the telemarketing company that could identify thousands of victims throughout the U.S. and Canada. He stated the hard drives were encrypted with a password related to golf, but he didn’t know what it was. Jim returned to New Mexico with the hard drives and in the following weeks used every combination of every golf term until he cracked the password…WholeN1. These records sealed the fate of the top three criminals in that vast conspiracy.
At the conclusion of the taskforce, Jim developed materials and presented national seminars on investigating and prosecuting fraudulent boiler room schemes to investigators and prosecutors throughout the nation.
I worked with Jim as the chief investigator on a number of other complex white collar and political corruption cases during the 90s. In every case he proved to be extremely resourceful. Jim is a highly organized individual, who was meticulous with all aspects of the cases he ran. Jim always conducted his investigations professionally and ethically, resulting in a successful resolution of many difficult and often high profile issues. One of the areas that the state attorney general’s office specialized in during the 90’s, while Jim was the lead investigator in his district was political corruption, bribery and kickbacks in government contracts. These cases have always been difficult to investigate from the state capital and without the help of competent and fearless local investigators, dedicated to rooting out both local and statewide political corruption, there is little chance of successfully detecting, investigating and prosecuting these offenses.
An example of one of these cases was the successful prosecution of a corrupt county highway department official that had cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds that had been siphoned off as ill-gotten gains. In this case, Jim developed information that revealed that a County Road Superintendent was receiving kickbacks from a major road contractor who was building caliche roads using a shallower depth of materials than what the specifications called for, and for which he was being paid. Here, in what was typically an environment where no one talks and evidence is extremely difficult to find, Jim used engineers, scrutinized thousands of documents, researched hundreds of bank accounts, conducted many witness and suspect interviews, building a top notch case that resulted in convictions for all those involved.
After I left the Office of the New Mexico Attorney General and entered into the private practice of the law as a civil litigator and special prosecutor, while Jim had gone on to attend law school in Texas, I continued to employ him as an investigator on cases involving complex fraudulent transactions, including investment frauds, in which I represented the victims as their civil attorney. Some of these cases also resulted in criminal referrals to state and federal prosecutors.
I returned to the role of prosecutor in 2002 and joined the office of the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico as one of the senior prosecutors in that office. Since retiring from the active practice of law as either a civil litigator or a public prosecutor, I have kept in touch with Jim as he took on the responsibilities of a Collin County prosecutor and then built up his own legal practice in Texas. I have participated from time to time in some of the excellent training programs for law enforcement that Jim has developed and helped to present to all levels of law enforcement in Texas and elsewhere.
I am not surprised to discover that Jim is now standing for election to the office of Sheriff in Collin County, Texas. In every capacity that I have known of his previous public service, Texas law enforcement could not have had a better representative than Jim Skinner. Based on my professional and personal acquaintance with Jim, I have no doubt that if elected to the office he is currently seeking to serve, he will make just as great a contribution there as he has with every previous public trust to enforce the law he has accepted and carried out with the utmost integrity.
Fred Chris Smith
Former Director of Prosecutions and Investigations
New Mexico State Attorney General’s Office
My name is Darwin Wisdom. I retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Diego, California as a Special Agent in 1995 after 27 years. Beginning in 1985 and continuing until I retired, I was privileged to serve as the investigative coordinator of a multi-agency task force consisting of various local, state and federal law enforcement and criminal justice agencies targeting illegal telemarketing. We engaged in typical investigations as well as undercover operations. One of the undercover operations was called “Operation Disconnect” which began in 1991, expanded nationwide, and resulted in a wave of 240 arrests in March 1993. A spinoff to that operation was called “Operation Senior Sentinel,” which resulted in approximately 1,200 arrests.
Soon after our investigations began we began a partnership with Jim Skinner, then the lead investigator for the Curry County, New Mexico District Attorney’s Office. Numerous victims of San Diego area telemarketing schemes had victims in Clovis County and Jim put together an ingenious plan in which the perpetrators from San Diego were eventually charged in Curry County. But premature charges could have possibly hampered the undercover operation and Jim not only agreed to hold arrests in abeyance, he steadfastly and enthusiastically enhanced the work of the task force by expanding our outreach into New Mexico. At an appropriate time, the suspects were formally charged in Curry County. These charges served to be tremendously successful in getting criminals to plea bargain guilty pleas in both New Mexico courts and federal courts, thus saving county and federal taxpayers the expense and efforts that would have been expended had the criminals been charged in only one jurisdiction. These joint cooperative efforts culminated in the successes outlined above. These cases were not simple, and involved large multi-state criminal conspiracies. Not only did Jim understand the complexities of the cases but assisted in solving them, including the significant work regarding the location and subsequent arrests of those who had fled to avoid prosecution.
As a result of this work with Jim, I came to know Jim not only as a patriotic, energetic, and zealous investigator, I came to know him as a friend, a friendship that I cherish to this day. Jim is arguably the most dogged and tenacious law enforcement officer that I have ever had the privilege to work with.
During my years of professional and personal relationship with Jim, I can attest that he is a man of integrity, of keen intellect, and has been respected by his peers in New Mexico, Texas, and his San Diego “family.”
After I retired from the FBI in 1995, I started a private investigation business in San Diego now known as Baker Street Group, Inc. Jim left the district attorney’s office and went to law school, and became an attorney in Texas. I was privileged to have been able to become licensed in Texas, where I continued my relationship with Jim during which time I found that his tenacity and skills I knew him to have as an investigator carried on with him as an attorney.
I am privileged to state unequivocally that it is my belief that Jim will faithfully serve the citizens of Collin County when he is elected Sheriff.
Retired FBI Special Agent
San Diego, California
My name is Gary Barber and I am from Tarrant County, Texas. As a young airman serving in the United States Air Force, I was extremely fortunate to have Jim Skinner as my supervisor, my mentor and as a leader. His guidance, can-do attitude and expectations for us to achieve a higher purpose, helped guide many of his subordinates to conquer things they never thought possible. Staff Sergeant Skinner was a man of character and integrity who lead by example. He was known by all in our Squadron as honest, intelligent, trustworthy and disciplined. For me, without his leadership, I would have left the military after 4 years and never realized the accomplishments I achieved: retiring as a Master Sergeant in the USAF, culminating my career with a deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
History beckons leaders at an early age and we all knew then that SSgt Skinner was destined to achieve great things. I believe that becoming the next Collin County Sheriff is what Jim Skinner has been called to do and I believe the residents of Collin County will be well served by electing him as your next Sheriff.
Retired MSGT, U.S. Air Force
My name is Keith Thomas Wattenbarger and I am currently the Roosevelt County Emergency Management Director and Roosevelt County 9-1-1 Coordinator in the State of New Mexico. I has been my privilege and pleasure to serve in this capacity for the past nine years.
Earlier in my career, I served 19 years in law enforcement in Roosevelt and Curry counties, New Mexico. As a rookie uniformed patrol officer with the Portales Police Department, Jim Skinner was one of my first Patrol Sergeants.
His professionalism and willingness to mentor me were instrumental in my professional development and it affirmed for me that the career I had chosen would be productive. After a short time, Jim was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Section as a Detective where he was responsible for investigating homicides, rapes, robberies, assaults and other violent crimes, as well as property crimes like burglaries and thefts.
In early 1990, I was transferred into Investigations and Jim Skinner was assigned as my Training officer. With Jim’s help, over the next several months, I learned how to organize my time, perform criminal suspect interviews, write effective case files, how to collect evidence, how to effectively present a case to the District Attorney and ultimately, how to effectively testify in court. Jim was a highly organized and very efficient criminal investigator and he was instrumental in helping me become a successful Detective. He was a natural leader who could always be depended on to do the right thing and set the right example for others.
Jim and I continued to work closely together after he left our department to become a criminal investigator for the State. As the Chief Investigator for the Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Clovis, NM, Jim helped me with a number of high profile criminal cases that required more resources than my department could offer.
Of the many murder cases throughout the District in which he was involved, I recall two homicide cases in particular where Jim’s assistance to me was instrumental in identifying the murderers, both of whom were later convicted. One victim was a young college student who had been strangled and drowned in her bathtub by an intruder in her home. In this case, after months of dedicated police work by a small group of investigators, Jim’s expertise in suspect interrogation resulted in this killer confessing to the murder. In the second homicide case, the killer fled the country and after seventeen years was arrested, extradited and successfully prosecuted. Here, Jim assisted our Agency by helping us identify where this suspect had initially fled immediately following the murder. I recall another incident in the District where Jim was assigned by the District Attorney to look into the death of an Eastern New Mexico University professor in a remote ranch house that another law enforcement agency had ruled a suicide. Jim ultimately arrested the Professor’s former lover and charged her with 1st Degree Murder. His investigation revealed that after a breakup, the ex-lover intentionally shot the Professor in the head as she entered the front door of her house, and then shot herself in the leg and staged the crime scene to make it appear the Professor committed suicide after shooting her ex-lover during a heated argument. But for Jim Skinner, this ambush killer would have walked free.
These three cases are but a small reflection of Jim’s work as a law enforcement officer in New Mexico. Jim Skinner was a man of integrity who could always be relied upon when asked for help. He enjoyed a reputation among his peers as a relentless and determined criminal investigator who would never let up until he solved his case. Jim was known throughout the law enforcement community for his ability to pick up a Cold Case, re-establish contact with witnesses and victim(s) and then go solve the crime.
With great admiration, I offer that Jim Skinner is a consummate professional law enforcement officer, who had a highly successful career when he served in New Mexico. My almost seven years of direct daily contact with him qualifies me to attest to the positive impact that he had on our communities, and certainly in my professional life. I would not hold the position I do today had it not been for those early years of mentorship from Jim Skinner.
Your communities would be well served with him as your next Sheriff.
Keith Thomas Wattenbarger
Roosevelt County Emergency Management Director
Roosevelt County 9-1-1 Coordinator
City of Portales, New Mexico
Pol. Adv. paid for by the Jim Skinner Campaign, Charlie O'Reilly, Treasurer.