A Cortez woman was allowed to see her son off to his very first day of school on Wednesday after she was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail for embezzlement.
Wearing a black dress at her sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Jessica Hernandez sobbed continuously while reading a multiple-page statement before District Court Judge Doug Walker. During her near 20-minute declaration, Hernandez repeatedly referred to the impact and consequences that her felonious actions will have on her husband of 10 years, their six- and three-year-old sons, and the rest of her family.
“I don’t want them to pay for my mistakes,” she said. “I’m concerned about the destruction to their lives.”
Facing a maximum six-year prison sentence, Hernandez was ordered to serve 90 days in the county jail plus three years of probation, complete 200 hours of community service and pen a letter of apology to the victim. In granting some leniency, Judge Walker ordered Hernandez to report to the Montezuma County Jail at 10 p.m. on Sept. 3, to start her three-month sentence behind bars.
“There are several collateral victims in this case, but you’re the person that made these victims,” Walker told Hernandez.
“You took advantage of your position of trust for pure greed,” he concluded.
In June, the 32-year-old mother of two pled guilty to felony embezzlement for stealing nearly $24,000 from a local dentist over a four-year span. On Tuesday, Judge Walker said he was disappointed to hear Hernandez repeatedly refer to the devastation she caused to her family rather than the harm to the real victim, Dr. Jason Smith.
“It was a well thought-out sentence,” Smith said following the proceeding. “I think justice has been served.”
Records show Hernandez was officially charged with theft on Feb. 19, after Smith discovered the crime by chance. According to Smith, Hernandez facilitated the offense by entering patients’ cash payments as credit card transactions. Following his own investigation, Smith discovered widespread corruption and fired Hernandez immediately, he said.
District Attorney Will Furse recommended a two-year jail term, citing Hernandez initiated the embezzlement scheme from the dental clinic while on probation for a similar offense that occurred while she worked at a nursing home. In the previous case, Hernandez embezzled some $14,000, Furse said.
“The fraud and theft evident in both cases reveals an ongoing pattern of felonious activity practiced with manipulative skill and frequency,” Furse said.
In addressing the court, Smith spoke briefly that he tried to give Hernandez a second chance, but he unfortunately wasn’t rewarded for his effort. He said the ordeal has since “tarnished his reputation” as a local businessman.
“My customers are concerned for their own financial security,” Smith said.
Defense attorney Kelly McCabe accused prosecutors of seeking a “high-level conviction” against his client. Requesting a two-year probationary term, McCabe said his client didn’t present a risk to the community.
“This is not a sweetheart deal,” he said. “My client has suffered tremendously.”
With full restitution made in the case, Hernandez, who is also known as Jessica Tozer, said she knows she was wrong, and she must accept that the community has labeled her a thief.
“This case has literally brought me to my knees,” she read in her closing statements to Judge Walker. “I have hit rock bottom, but I want to climb back up.”