Charged with stealing more than $23,000, Jessica Hernandez, 32, of Cortez fought back tears June 17 during a plea agreement.
As Chief District Judge Doug Walker read the three-page plea agreement in open court, Hernandez wrestled to keep her emotions hidden as she stood next to her attorney, Kelly McCabe. During the proceeding, Hernandez apologized to the victim, and told Walker that she agreed to the plea in order to move forward with her life.
“I’m guilty, and I want to make that right,” said Hernandez, also known as Jessica Tozer.
Court records show Hernandez was officially charged with theft Feb. 19 for embezzling $23,682.40 from San Juan Dental. Records indicate the embezzlement spanned a four-year period starting in September 2008.
Jason Smith, who owns the dental practice, said Hernandez was a front-office employee. Smith discovered the crime by chance, he said.
“I had a patient bring in a credit-card receipt who wanted a cash receipt,” he explained. “That’s how I initially discovered the embezzlement.”
According to Smith, Hernandez facilitated the crime by entering patients’ cash payments as credit-card transactions. After his own two-day investigation, Smith discovered widespread corruption and fired Hernandez immediately, he said. Smith later learned that Hernandez was on probation for related crimes while employed at the dental clinic, he said.
“Ms. Hernandez has a prior history, and I want to make sure the community is aware,” Smith said. “I’m not happy. I wouldn’t recommend her to future employers.”
The plea agreement included full restitution, which was made at the proceedings, but Smith said he is still unsatisfied.
“Ms. Hernandez needs help,” he said after the plea agreement. “I hope the consequences are stiff enough to help her turn things around.”
A Class 4 felony, the theft charge carries a maximum six-year prison sentence, a maximum $500,000 fine and up to three years of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Aug. 8.