Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Scam suspect misses court hearing

Court threatens arrest warrant if Martinez absent again

Express Staff Writer

Raquel Martinez

A preliminary hearing was rescheduled for a woman who is accused of scamming seven local Hispanics out of money after the suspect failed to show up in court last week.

Twenty-eight-year-old Raquel Martinez, a former Hailey resident who now lives in Shoshone, is charged with three felony counts of grand theft and four misdemeanor counts of petit theft for allegedly posing as a federal immigration service employee to bilk the victims out of more than $8,000.

According to court records, Martinez was not in attendance at a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 21, in Blaine County Magistrate Court.

"Mr. Dolan does not know where his client is. Has not heard from her today," reads a transcript from last week's hearing, and referring to Ketchum attorney Dan Dolan, Martinez's court-appointed public defender.

Magistrate Judge R. Ted Israel rescheduled the hearing for Friday, March 2, at 9 a.m. A court order setting the hearing states that a warrant may be issued for the suspect's arrest if she fails to show up.

Martinez is currently free on $25,000 bond.

A preliminary hearing is a court procedure wherein a magistrate judge determines if sufficient evidence exists to order a defendant tried in district court.

In other developments, the criminal complaint against Martinez was amended a second time on Feb. 6 as investigators with the Ketchum Police Department identified another alleged victim and the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office added a new charge.

Martinez, who was arrested in Twin Falls in November 2006, was initially charged with two felonies and one misdemeanor. An amended complaint filed in January added three new misdemeanor charges, and the second amended complaint added one more felony.

Specifically, Martinez is charged with three counts of felony grand theft for allegedly bilking Martha Gabriela Hurtado Gomez out of $1,200, Aurora Gonzales out of $2,960 and Jose Antonio Rojas Castellon out of $1,160.

She faces four misdemeanor counts of petit theft for allegedly cheating Omar Perez out of $425, Alejandra Cardenas out of $875, Jorge Espinoza out of $745 and Edith Espinoza Tellez out of $970.

Investigating Officer Ken Martinez alleges that Raquel Martinez, posing as an Immigration and Naturalization Service employee, promised to help local Hispanics with the paperwork to obtain legal residency status. However, the paperwork allegedly never was issued, and subsequent investigation showed that Raquel Martinez was not a federal employee.

The INS is now called Immigration and Customs Enforcement and uses the acronym ICE.

Martinez was formerly employed in Ketchum at a residential complex and at a bank.

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