SALEM, N.H. — A judge has ruled a theft suspect must disclose records that allegedly show she earned more than $100,000 last year, making her ineligible to retain a public defender.
Maria Pereyra, 45, of Lawrence is accused of lying about her personal earnings — saying she had none — when applying for a court-appointed lawyer to defend her.
Pereyra was arrested on a willful concealment charge Dec. 12 for allegedly stealing a dress from Lord & Taylor at The Mall at Rockingham Park.
When Pereyra failed to appear in 10th Circuit Court in February, public defender Tara Witt asked Judge Robert Stephen to continue the probable cause hearing. Witt said her client could not attend because she had three job interviews scheduled in Texas. Witt offered to provide copies of airline reservations to prove her claim.
Prosecutor Jason Grosky challenged the request, saying Pereyra should have been in court and that she falsified information concerning her personal finances. An arrest warrant was issued.
In a motion filed with the court, Grosky said an investigation of Pereyra’s background revealed she had worked full time as a therapist at Arbour Counseling Services in Lawrence since December 2007, earning $35 an hour.
A copy of Pereyra’s tax return showed she grossed $100,242 in pay last year, Grosky said.
A records search revealed Pereyra had three vehicles registered under her name, including a Mercedes and BMW sport utility vehicle, court documents said. The search also showed six other vehicles registered under her name since 2007, according to the documents.
When filing a financial affidavit to obtain a public defender, Pereyra said she had no income, investments or other money to pay for a lawyer.
Pereyra originally faced a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail. The charge was later upgraded to a felony that could see her spend several years in state prison if convicted.
A hearing in the case was held June 25, with Pereyra waiving her right to a probable cause hearing.
Pereyra and Witt have fought the request that the financial documents be released, saying they included sensitive personal information, including account numbers and identities of relatives that should remain private.
Releasing the account numbers would make Pereyra susceptible to identity fraud, they said.
But the judge disagreed, ordering the sealed documents be made public in at least 10 days. During that time, Pereyra is allowed to redact from the records account and Social Security numbers along with other personal information, the judge ruled.
“After this time, the records shall become public,” he said. “In so ruling, the public’s right to know is preserved while the defendant’s concerns are addressed.”
Grosky declined to comment on the judge’s ruling, saying he could not speak about a pending case. Witt could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Pereyra was convicted of theft in 10th Circuit Court in July 2009 and in Rockingham Superior Court in January 2011.