Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — A woman who conspired with others to steal merchandise from Walmart will not go to prison, as long as she follows the terms and conditions of her deferred sentence.
Twelfth Judicial District Judge Michael Gonzales last week ordered Lorie Ann Nieto to serve a deferred term of two years for felony theft, plus two years of concurrent probation for misdemeanor theft.
The judge called the deferred sentence a great opportunity for the 27-year-old woman, but he warned her there would be consequences if she violates any of its provisions.
He told Nieto she is not the kind of person he’d expect to see in district court.
“The record would lead me to believe that you’re a pretty decent person,” he said Feb. 12.
But she made a horrible decision, he said, when she joined a group of other women to steal just under $1,700 in items from the big-box retailer.
“I don’t know if you understand how stupid your actions were and how much this is going to cost you,” he said.
When she reflects on her actions, the judge said he hopes that she learns from the experience.
“Was it worth any of that to put yourself where you are?” he asked. “I hope you realize it was not.”
In addition to the deferred sentence, the judge ordered Nieto to complete 50 hours of useful public service, among other conditions. He also imposed and then suspended a $2,000 fine.
Nieto pleaded guilty in December to both counts of theft, which were based on charges that she and four other women stole items from the Alamosa Walmart last June.
According to a police report on a series of incidents, former store associate Julia Bailon was first seen leaving her department with a shopping cart full of merchandise. Shortly afterwards, Bailon led her son, his wife and the cart out of the store, the report says.
When a loss prevention employee reviewed video surveillance later that same day, he reported that he saw footage of Bailon’s daughter pushing another full cart out of the building.
Four days later, the employee said he spotted Bailon herself moving a packed cart to the housewares department. At one point, she removed diaper bags and hid them behind two comforters, the employee reported.
Every so often, Bailon would walk by the bags and place merchandise inside them, and eventually, the employee reported she transferred some of the items into a Walmart shopping bag.
Later that day, four women were confronted as they tried to push two shopping carts full of hidden items and other merchandise out of the store. Nieto, Jessica Bailon, Michelle Felice Martinez and Tara Bailon confessed to their involvement in the crime, according to a police report.
The Alamosa Police Department subsequently recovered the carts, which contained stolen food, clothing, household items and feminine hygiene products.
A sixth woman was initially implicated in the theft, based largely on the statements of Julia and Tara Bailon. But the district attorney’s office soon dismissed the entire case against her.
The woman, who had no social or familial connections to the other suspects, called the experience the worst thing that ever happened to her.
In a letter to Alamosa County Court, she wrote that no one even asked her for her side of the story.
“I was not even given an opportunity to be interviewed by the police or been able to give a statement, like they were,” she said in the letter. “I don’t think that was right. I didn’t get a chance to defend myself.”