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Former 1st Stop manager pleads

Posted: Saturday, Mar 9th, 2013

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — A woman who tried to help her boyfriend’s mother bail him out of jail using stolen money pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit theft.

Defense attorney Mérida Zerbi told the court that Loren Gutierrez took money from a former employer and left it in a vehicle, knowing that someone else would break in and take it.

Gutierrez initially reported that an unknown individual broke into her vehicle while she was inside a local restaurant, and stole three deposits that she planned on taking to a bank.

But authorities found inconsistencies with her initial version of events, based on their analysis of the scene, as well as video footage from the restaurant.

Their investigation ultimately led them to a second woman, Ernestine Bernadette Gallegos, who was in the process of using the money to bail her son out of jail. (Gallegos pleaded guilty last December to misdemeanor theft and criminal mischief.)

Authorities then recovered $6,500 from the bonding agent, and they later retrieved another $1,701 from a vehicle operated by Gallegos.

According to a later police report, Gutierrez admitted that she met Gallegos at a local hotel and gave her the money from 1st Stop/ Alta Fuels, where she worked as a manager. She also told authorities that Gallegos arranged for an unknown person to break the window of her car.

Gutierrez, who has no prior criminal history to speak of, could face a potential penalty of one to three years in state prison. Under extraordinary circumstances, the sentence could vary from as little as six months to a maximum of six years.

The Class 5 felony also carries a fine that could range from $1,000 to $100,000, plus two years of mandatory parole.

By entering her plea, though, the 26-year-old woman avoided more serious penalties.

Under the terms of a plea deal, the district attorney’s office dropped additional charges of felony theft and false reporting. At this point, however, prosecutors have not come forward with any sentencing recommendations.

As for Gallegos’ son Anthony, he’s currently scheduled to return to court on March 12 for a status conference regarding a March 26 trial. The 21-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to attempted second-degree murder, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and two counts of first-degree assault.

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