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Embezzler gets probation, must pay restitution

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By Tris DeRoma

Celine M. Barela-Benavidez, the woman accused of embezzling $17,533.67 from Southwest Office Solutions had her day in court June 26, where Benavidez entered a plea of guilty and she was sentenced to five years of conditional probation for her crimes, according to a written order of conditional discharge entered in the Los Alamos First Judicial District Court. 

“It appearing that good cause exists for the entry of a conditional discharge, the court hereby orders a conditional discharge without entering an adjudication of guilt as to the above charges,” said a statement in the court documents signed by District Judge Sheri Raphaelson.

Benavidez, of Rio Rancho, was charged with three counts of embezzlement (over $500) in February of this year. Each of the three charges was a fourth degree felony. Benavidez was originally charged with 15 counts of embezzlement, including one third-degree felony, eight fourth-degree felonies, one misdemeanor and five petty misdemeanors.

According to the police report, Benavidez was discovered when a cursory check of the business accounts and inventory between April 2011 and May 2012 by business owner Tracy Maddox revealed a number of missing items, mostly computers and related hardware. 

 Benavidez was the office manager at the time, and managing the accounts and inventory was a part of her responsibilities. Maddox finally was convinced Benavidez had stolen the items when she saw an order for two HP laptops and Microsoft software shipped to an address in Las Cruces where she knew Benavidez’ son lived. 

Police said Benavidez was able to hide the purchase by making it seem the Los Alamos Laboratory was ordering the items. According to the report, Maddox said LANL is a big client of theirs, so it was relatively easy for Benavidez to hide the amount and frequency of the orders.

The court ordered five years of supervised probation with conditions that include:

Benavidez must obey all federal, state and local laws and ordinances. She must pay back the $17,533.67 to Southwest Office Systems as well as the $185 in lab fees connected to gathering evidence for the case against her. 

An SOS employee told the Los Alamos Monitor that the company did not have any comment regarding Benavidez or her arrest and sentence.