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Gutierrez sentenced for her role in 1st Stop theft case

Posted: Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — A woman who conspired to bail an inmate out of jail with stolen money was ordered on Tuesday to serve three years of supervised probation.

Twelfth Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift also sentenced Loren Gutierrez to 90 days in the county jail, but she gave the defendant the option of completing an in-home detention program as an alternative.

Gutierrez, who pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit theft, apologized on Tuesday for stealing thousands of dollars from her former employer.

“I’m just really sorry about my actions,” she said. “I should have known better than to steal.”

Defense attorney Mérida Zerbi told the court that Gutierrez talked herself into committing the crime with the belief that she was protecting her children.

The defense maintained that inmate Anthony Gallegos threatened to report Gutierrez to the Alamosa County Department of Social/ Human Services if she didn’t help him out. Gutierrez believed that her children would be taken away from her if Gallegos made good on his alleged threat.

However, Judge Swift pointed out that the logic behind Gutierrez’s actions was flawed. The judge said the defendant would have been in much less trouble with the social services department if she’d been honest with herself.

Gutierrez does not have a prior criminal record to speak of, and Judge Swift found that she would be an appropriate candidate for probation.

Still, she said the court has to take the matter very seriously.

“Certainly, it’s a concern to this court that you staged this,” the judge said.

The district attorney’s office initially charged Gutierrez with felony theft and false reporting. But it later dismissed both counts in exchange for Gutierrez’s plea to a lesser Class 5 felony.

Zerbi told the court in March that her client took money from a former employer and left it in a vehicle, knowing that someone else would break in and take it.

Gutierrez initially told police 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 investigators found discrepancies 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; her son Anthony has pleaded not guilty to attempted second-degree murder and other offenses.)

Authorities went on to recover $6,500 from the bonding agent, and they later retrieved another $1,701 from a vehicle under Ernestine Gallegos’ control.

According to a later police report, Gutierrez admitted she met Ernestine 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 Ernestine Gallegos arranged for an unknown person to break the window of her car.

Now that she stands convicted of the crime, Gutierrez must perform 100 hours of useful public service, while maintaining full-time employment or education.

The judge also ordered her to refrain from using alcohol or drugs, and to submit to random tests. If Gutierrez tests positive for drugs or alcohol, she must undergo an evaluation for substance abuse.

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