ALAMOSA — Former long-time Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office employee Carol Orton, 54, on Monday pleaded guilty to theft charges related to her employment at the sheriff’s office.
As part of her stipulated deferred sentence she will repay $162,800 by her February 20th sentencing date.
Orton pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge for which she will receive a three-year deferred sentence and an added misdemeanor theft charge for which she will receive probation. As a condition of either sentencing she will serve no more than 90 days in the county jail, which would be concurrent if imposed in both cases.
Both charges date to a time period between January 1, 2017 and April 23, 2018 when Orton resigned from her position as office manager at the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office.
District Judge Michael Gonzales told Orton the deferred sentence to which she was agreeing was a good thing for her because if she complied with all of the conditions of the deferred during the three-year probationary period, the felony charge against her would be dismissed and therefore not show up on her record.
If she violates the deferred during the three years, however, the felony conviction would remain on her record.
The judge said the sentence was consistent with similar cases in which people did not really have a significant criminal history, which is true in Orton’s case.
Judge Gonzales said he would take into consideration the probation department’s report prior to Orton’s sentencing and consider her repayment of the restitution by the time of sentencing, which she said she planned to do. The judge said that would be to her benefit, also, in that the restitution would have accrued interest over time. If not for the deferred sentence, Orton would be subject to 2-6 years in prison or community corrections in the normal sentencing range on the felony theft charge. Judge Gonzales told her that sentence would not apply to her as long as she complied with the deferred sentence conditions. The misdemeanor theft charge would ordinarily carry a sentence of up to 18 months in the county jail or probation.
The judge dismissed remaining charges including a charge of unauthorized use of a financial transaction device (credit cards.) Orton had access to the county sheriff’s office credit cards through her duties in the office. She had worked for the sheriff’s office for more than 30 years and would have retired this coming April.
Orton remains out of custody on bond and is represented by attorney David Lipka. Lipka told the judge both parties are evaluating the accounting regarding the restitution amount, but Orton has agreed to pay whatever restitution is agreed upon, up to the $162,800 figure, by the time of sentencing.
“We will continue to go over that to make sure we have the correct number,” Assistant District Attorney Ashley McCuaig told the judge. He said the restitution amount is what the sheriff’s office provided.
When the judge asked McCuaig about the sheriff’s office response to this disposition, he said the sheriff’s office was initially displeased with this disposition but recently expressed to him that they are in agreement with it.