Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Martinez pleads guilty to forgery

Theft charges dismissed in plea agreement

Express Staff Writer

A former Hailey woman, who was earlier accused of scamming seven local Hispanic workers out of more than $8,000, pleaded guilty Monday to a single felony count of forgery.

Twenty-eight-year-old Raquel Martinez entered her plea before 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee as part of a plea agreement with the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

In exchange for her guilty plea, the prosecuting attorney's office filed an amended criminal complaint that in effect dismissed three felony counts of grand theft and four misdemeanor charges of petit theft that were pending against Martinez.

Upon sentencing, the prosecuting attorney's office will recommend that Martinez be given a withheld judgment, make restitution to the victims, be placed on three years supervised probation and sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

However, Elgee told Martinez in court Monday that he is not bound by the recommendations of the prosecuting attorney's office.

"You understand, I don't have to follow those recommendations," Elgee said. "I can decide anything within the maximum punishment."

In Idaho, forgery is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Martinez was arrested in November 2006 following an investigation by the Ketchum Police Department. She was earlier accused of falsely claiming to be a federal immigration employee and promising to help Hispanic workers obtain legal residency in the U.S. in exchange for them depositing money into her checking account.

Elgee ordered a pre-sentence investigation for Martinez, who has no prior criminal record. Sentencing was scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 21.

Martinez is represented by public defender Dan Dolan. She is currently free on $25,000 bond.

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