Portales woman pleads guilty

By Tony Parra

Ninth District Judge Joe Parker wrapped up the fraud case of two New Mexico Department of Human Services employees on Tuesday with a guilty plea from a woman accused of one count of theft of identity.

Parker sentenced Julia Tapia, 50, of Portales to three years of supervised probation. Tapia was also found guilty of one count of unlawful dealing of federal coupons. Prosecutor Donna Mowrer said the maximum penalty was 15 1/2 years, less eight days and $23,000 in fines.

“I want to say I’m sorry to the state, my co-workers and my family for what I have done,” Tapia said. “I worked for the income support division for 25 years. I blew my whole career away. My husband left me with bills. I had to do odd jobs.”

Ricardo Mendez, 37, of Clovis were found guilty of accessing a computer with the intent to commit a crime and two counts of theft identity. Mendez and Tapia were employees of the Income Support Division of the NMDHS, located in Portales. They were accused of stealing $2,900 from fraudulent accounts.

Tapia and Mendez were caught by agents from the district attorney’s office and Portales making withdrawals from an ATM machine.

Late last year Mendez was sentenced to four years of supervised probation.

Tapia’s attorney, Randall Harris of Clovis, requested the probation as unsupervised, but it was denied by Parker.

“The state believes it is an appropriate plea agreement,” said Donna Mowrer, senior prosecutor of the district attorney’s office. “The defendant violated the public’s trust. Probation should be supervised.”

Parker ordered that Tapia report to her probation officer by noon on Friday.

Parker ordered Tapia and Mendez pay back restitution in the amount of $2,900.