A former municipal deputy court clerk for the town of Peralta pleaded no contest earlier this month to embezzlement of more than $20,000 from the town.
Tanya Jaramillo, 43, of Los Lunas, received a suspended sentence on July 11 after being indicted in May 2018 on one count of embezzlement, a second-degree felony.
The nine-year sentence was suspended, and Jaramillo will spend five years on supervised probation while paying $20,001 in restitution to the town. Once she has paid the entire amount, Jaramillo will be put on unsupervised probation.
Jaramillo was the municipal deputy court clerk as well as the alternate municipal judge for the town of Peralta, from Jan. 11, 2012, when she was hired by then municipal judge David Young, until she turned in her resignation on April 4, 2017. Two months after she left the position, Peralta Treasurer Steven Robbins contacted the Bosque Farms Police Department to report a possible theft.
According to the plea agreement, the embezzlement happened between July 1, 2015, and April 4, 2017.
Peralta Mayor Bryan Olguin called the sentence a “tough pill to swallow,” saying research by staff showed at least $150,000 went missing from court revenues during Jaramillo’s tenure.
“We went back through the years — before she was there, during and after — and estimate she possibly could have embezzled just under $200,000,” Olguin said. “The governing body could never get a straight answer from the previous judge as to why revenues were down when, all those years, the number of citations written had remained consistent. During her tenure, revenues dropped drastically.”
The mayor said during the Bosque Farms Police Department’s investigation, Jaramillo admitted to taking about $75,000 from the town’s court funds.
The town can pursue civil action against Jaramillo to try to recover additional money it feels she owes, Olguin said.
“We do have that option. I’m not sure we don’t need to contact the (New Mexico Attorney General’s) office,” he said. “A certain percentage of tickets goes to the state, so she was embezzling state funds as well as local.”
Olguin was critical of the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, saying town officials were not consulted in regards to the plea agreement.
“We were told we would be a part of this, have some kind of say so in any negotiations,” the mayor said. “We didn’t get any kind of notification about this plea. We were left in the dark. It would have been nice to speak to the judge and let her know what was going on from our side.”
Olguin said the loss of the money hurts the town as a whole ultimately.
“We could have done something with that money, those public funds,” he said. “I do know in my heart, crime never does pay. Even if she just took $75,000 and has to pay $20,001, I guess crime did pay in this situation.”
Los Lunas attorney Greg Gaudette, representing Jaramillo, said full restitution would be paid by the end of August, if not sooner.
“This plea was a compromise. Tanya fully cooperated with law enforcement and voluntarily talked to them,” Gaudette said. “She’s remorseful.”
Two years ago, Robbins reported a missing cash deposit from a $300 bond that was paid to the Peralta Municipal Court.
In the course of the year-long investigation, BFPD officers interviewed numerous people and two independent audits were done on the municipal court’s accounts and financial records.
“The audits located a lot of discrepancies in the handling of funds and discovered that a large amount of cash was missing, had not been deposited or been misplaced,” said now BFPD Chief Paul Linson in 2018.
During the investigation, Jaramillo was interviewed by Linson, a lieutenant at that time, and he told the News-Bulletin at that time, she essentially confessed to taking the money.
“Based on her confession, it sounded like it started off small and escalated into significant amounts of money for living expenses, entertainment and whatever else,” he said. “She had such easy access to it — access to all the records so she could manipulate the records. It was a very complex system developed over many, many years. It was quite the little cash cow.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.