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February 15, 2014

Woman could face more charges in Salem theft case

Suspect accused of falsifying documents

SALEM — What began with the alleged theft of a dress could lead to more criminal charges for a Lawrence woman.

Maria Pereyra, 45, was scheduled to appear Thursday in 10th Circuit Court for a probable cause hearing. But she was nowhere to be seen when it came time for her case to be heard by Judge Robert Stephen.

Pereyra was to answer to a willful concealment charge for allegedly stealing a dress Dec. 12 from Lord & Taylor at The Mall at Rockingham Park.

Her attorney, public defender Tara Witt, asked that the case be continued because Pereyra had said she could not attend the hearing because she had three job interviews scheduled in Texas.

Witt offered to provide copies of airline reservations to prove her unemployed client flew to Texas earlier in the week.

But prosecutor Jason Grosky objected, saying Pereya should have been in court. Stephen agreed and rejected the request.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Pereya, who could face additional charges for falsifying information, Grosky said later.

“That is something that is being talked about,” he said. “It’s a fraud on the system.”

When filing a financial affidavit to obtain a public defender, Pereya said she had no income, investments or other money to pay for a lawyer.

But in a motion filed Thursday with the court, Grosky said an investigation revealed Pereyra has worked full time as a therapist at Arbour Counseling Services in Lawrence since December 2007, earning $35 an hour.

“Unfortunately, the entire system suffers when a person who has the ability to hire her own lawyer lies under oath to snatch for herself services that are meant to help our most needy defendants,” he said.

A records search showed Pereya has three vehicles registered under her name, including a Mercedes and BMW sport utility vehicle. It also revealed six other vehicles registered under her name since 2007, court documents said.

Pereya originally faced a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail. But the charge was upgraded to a felony that could see her spend at least several years in state prison.

Pereya was convicted of theft in 10th Circuit Court in July 2009 and in Rockingham Superior Court in January 2011.

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