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Woman accused of deceiving immigrant into giving her $45,000 over three years

Crime Watch

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IDAHO FALLS — Deputies say an Idaho Falls woman deceived an undocumented immigrant into giving her tens of thousands of dollars.

Maria Martinez, 44, is charged with felony grand theft by deception. According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by EastIdahoNews.com, the victim contacted the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office in February, saying Martinez took around $45,000 over three years while threatening to call immigration authorities if she did not pay.

The two women reportedly became friends a few years ago, according to the probable cause affidavit. Investigators say Martinez manipulated the victim by saying she could help her out if the victim gave her money to pay fictitious fines from various government agencies, along with legal fees, fees for Medicaid and other expenses.

The alleged scheme began when the victim’s husband died in a work accident and she received an insurance payout. The victim, who struggled with English and had little experience paying bills, accepted help from Martinez to do so. The victim said she felt robbed when realizing she wasn’t giving money for legitimate needs but a plot to deceive her of money.

The victim also alleged Martinez would make threats about reporting her to immigration and she said the victim’s children would be taken away if she did not pay a portion of the insurance payout to her.

Investigators tried having the victim confront Martinez over the phone about the alleged thefts. Martinez responded by saying if the victim felt robbed, she could take her to court and then the call ended, according to investigators.

Deputies spoke with Martinez, who said the victim wouldn’t have been able to pay $45,000 over three years because she did not have that much money. She did say that she helped the victim pay her gas bill but denied other allegations.

Martinez was charged in April for the alleged crime. However, she was not found until her arrest on July 27. She posted $10,000 bail and was released from the Bonneville County Jail.

Although Martinez is accused of a crime, it does not necessarily mean she committed it. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A preliminary hearing for Martinez is scheduled for Friday at the Bonneville County Courthouse.

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