Garcia embezzlement case proceeds to jury trial

By Tony Parra

A plea agreement was set for a Portales woman accused of embezzling more than $138,000 from the New Mexico Higher Education department but the two sides could not come to an agreement and instead the case will go to trial.
Ninth Judicial District Judge Joe Parker presided over a scheduled pre-trial agreement on Wednesday morning for Tammy Jo Garcia. Garcia, 33, is charged with forging her supervisor’s signature to embezzle more than $138,000 from a NMHE account.

“Ms. (Donna) Mowrer and I were not able to negotiate a plea agreement,” Randy Harris, Garcia’s defense attorney, said. “We are withdrawing the plea agreement.”

Parker said the case is set to go to trial within the next six months and added he would like to see the case scheduled to go to trial in the next few weeks.

Garcia was arrested by Portales Police in late February of 2005 and charged with embezzlement over $20,000, one count of tampering with evidence and 70 counts of forgery. According to court records, if found guilty on all charges Garcia could face a maximum of 226 1/2 years in prison.

According to the criminal complaint, Garcia is charged with forging the signature of Larry Smith, coordinator of Eastern New Mexico University’s assessment department, on 69 occasions from May 28, 2002, until July 6, 2004, while she was working in the office. In total, Garcia used the forgery means to embezzle and fraudulently obtain $138,314, according to the affidavit.

Garcia’s responsibilities in the assessment office included reconciling the monthly bank statements, making deposits, typing checks and other bookkeeping responsibilities. Garcia was never authorized to sign checks or by any other method to withdraw money from the account, according to the affidavit.

The complaint also reported Garcia admitted she used a notebook police discovered to practice Smith’s signature and created a false balance sheet on Feb. 27, 2004