Woman admits stealing $177,000
November 20, 2007
A 61-year-old Wellington woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to theft, admitting she took $177,000 while she worked at Campora Propane Co.
Michele Baligad faces 10 years in Nevada State Prison and a $10,000 fine plus restitution at her sentencing Jan. 29. She also is eligible for probation.
“I stole money from Campora Propane,” Baligad told District Judge Dave Gamble. “I never kept track. I don’t know how much I took.”
She reportedly told investigators she took the money to finance a gambling addiction.
Assistant District Attorney Michael McCormick said Campora Propane had been reimbursed $240,000 by its insurance company.
Baligad went to work for the propane company in 2000 and said the thefts started shortly after she was hired.
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A company official told Douglas County sheriff’s investigators the thefts went undetected because there was no system of checks and balances to monitor Baligad’s work.
Investigators said Baligad took cash receipts which she tried to cover when checks came in. She reportedly changed customers’ addresses to her own so they wouldn’t receive overdue notices.
The theft was uncovered when other employees contacted customers about late payments and were told their bills had been paid.
— A felony theft charge was dismissed Tuesday against a 48-year-old Gardnerville woman who admitted gambling away $15,000 from the account of a 78-year-old Bank of America customer.
“I rarely thank people after they’ve committed a crime,” said District Judge Dave Gamble. “I thank you for being somebody I can refer to in other gambling cases as a good example of what you can do.”
Janet Lee Turner was a clerk at the Gardnerville Raley’s bank branch when the incident occurred in April 2006. She made two unauthorized withdrawals from the recently widowed customer’s account.
She made complete restitution and apologized to the bank and the customer.
“In the last year, with being so active in Gamblers’ Anonymous and at Carson Valley Christian Center preparing to start a class for gambling addicts, I think of how addiction got hold of my life and destroyed it,” Turner said Tuesday.
“I would like to be there for other people as addiction takes peoples’ lives,” she said.
Lawyer Tod Young said Turner had testified about gambling addiction at the Nevada Legislature and been active in support groups and counseling.
He said she had strong support from her family and friends.
“She’s embarrassed and mortified to be in court. She’s a businesswoman in this town, a mother, a friend, a wife,” Young said. “She’s taking back control over herself. She’s done all she can do to meet the diversionary requirements.”
Assistant District Attorney Michael McCormick asked that Turner be sentenced.
“I’m not asking for prison, but there ought to be some kind of negative effect. What sort of message do we send if we say, ‘OK, we’ll dismiss if you seem to be on the straight and narrow,” McCormick said.
Gamble said he was mindful that the fact restitution was paid didn’t take away from the reality that a crime had been committed.
But he said it was consistent for him to dismiss the charge because Turner had gone beyond what was expected of her.
“The best I could expect is exactly what Ms. Turner has done,” Gamble said. “If I had the ability I would create a gambling adjunct to this court.”
He called upon her to be a resource to aid other gambling addicts.
Turner had no prior criminal history. She faced up to four years in Nevada State Prison and a $5,000 fine.
— A 35-year-old Indian Hills man was sentenced Tuesday to six months in Douglas County Jail after he returned to the United States illegally and was arrested for intoxication at Wal-Mart.
Speaking through an interpreter, Francisco Medina said he was deported in December 2006 after he pleaded guilty to using a false Social Security card to obtain a driver’s license. He was arrested at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Minden.
Medina was given probation and deported last December, but said he came back in January.
He told District Judge Dave Gamble he bought a house in Indian Hills and came back to sell it.
Gamble revoked his probation and ordered him to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement when his jail term is over. He gave Medina credit for 24 days in custody.
— A 37-year-old Reno man pleaded guilty Tuesday to accomplice to the crime of battery with the use of a deadly weapon, admitting he drove a suspect who stabbed a Carson City man in a dispute over a parking place at Harrah’s Casino.
Richard Stewart admitted he drove Remengesau “Ray Ray” William Erungel, 24, from the scene but said he didn’t know the stabbing had occurred until they left the area.
“I should have called the cops,” he said.
Stewart said he and some friends, including Erungel, drove to Lake Tahoe on Oct. 11.
“We were in the parking lot and this guy blocked me from the parking space. I got a little upset,” Stewart said. “Ray-Ray was striking the guy in the car. On the way back to Reno, I found out he had stabbed him.”
Stewart is set for sentencing Jan. 29. He faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Gamble released Stewart from Douglas County Jail on Tuesday on his own recognizance.
Erungel faces a maximum of 20 years in Nevada State Prison and $20,000 in fines after he pleaded guilty to two counts of battery with a deadly weapon. His sentencing is set for Jan. 15. He is being held on $100,000 cash bail.
— A 29-year-old Carson City man who walked out of Wal-Mart without paying for nearly $1,000 worth of items was sentenced Tuesday to five years probation.
“You’ve got a rough road ahead of you,” District Judge Dave Gamble told Edward Lee Perkins.
He sentenced Perkins to four years in Nevada State Prison, suspended, and placed him on probation.
Perkins must abstain from drugs and alcohol while on probation and pay $500 in attorney fees.
Gamble ordered Perkins to get current on $50,000 in back child support.
“Get an amount established and stay current,” Gamble said.
“I know what I look like on paper, the man I haven’t been,” Perkins said. “I know I am going to have a hard time, but I am going to have help, too.”
Lawyer Derrick Lopez said Perkins recognized how important his family was and that he couldn’t continue to live the way he has been.
“He couldn’t be forced to change. He said it had to be his decision. Now he’s ready,” Lopez said.
Gamble told Perkins that he believed the defendant was sincere.
“Your history wars strongly against this being a serious change,” Gamble said. “As soon as you go back to depending on Edward Lee Perkins, you’re done.”
Gamble said he would be the first in line to congratulate Perkins if he’s successful.
“You can be a regular human instead of a buffoon who wheels a cartload of stuff out of Wal-Mart,” Gamble said.