Woman who stole funds for liposuction will work off sentence
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Selene Gamez Avitia, the woman who pleaded guilty to charges of embezzling state funds to pay for liposuction and a tummy tuck, was sentenced Thursday to pay $3,756 in restitution and perform 45 days in the Workenders program.
She will not serve any jail time except for the one day she served when she was initially arrested.
Avitia, wearing gold hoop earrings and dressed in a black T-shirt and black jeans, sat quietly in Courtroom B in the Garfield County Courthouse as public defender James Conway asked Judge T. Peter Craven for a light sentence for the 32-year-old former Garfield County Social Services employee.
Embezzlement is a Class 5 felony and carries a penalty of one to three years in state prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
“She’s really sorry for what she did,” said Conway. “At the time, she was under a lot of pressure and her capacity to think clearly affected her heart. She made bad mistakes, but I don’t think she is a thief.”
From February through June 2000, Avitia took $3,760 intended to be used for temporary assistance to needy families. According to court documents, Avitia said she had cervical and pancreatic cancer “in order to elicit sympathy from family, friends, co-workers and her former husband,” and then had the liposuction performed not only to be thinner, but because she needed to have “some kind of procedure done,” according to court documents.
Although District Attorney Jeff Cheney asked that, as part of Avitia’s sentence, she participate in the 9th Judicial District’s Workenders program, Conway said his client had suffered enough.
“She’s been humiliated statewide in the news,” he added.
“I don’t think this will ever happen again,” Conway continued, “and I ask that she not be required to complete Workenders. Selene has a job at the Redstone Inn, and it will be difficult for her to keep her job and be in work release.”
“There are no words to say how badly I feel and how sorry I am,” said Avitia when Craven asked if she had anything to say. “I’ve lost a lot of trust and I’ve hurt a lot of people.”
Taking recommendations from the district attorney and probation office, Craven sentenced Avitia to report to the district’s community corrections office to arrange for her Workender time and to pay back the money she embezzled.
Craven also put Avitia on probation for four years, to be reviewed April 12, 2007.
The district’s Workender’s program is one of only three such restorative justice programs in the state, according to Guy Meyer, the director of community corrections for the district.
“It’s an alternative sentencing program,” said Meyer. “It’s a version of the old chain gang, only kinder and gentler.”
Meyer said Workenders, which began in 1994 regionally, is designed to give non-violent offenders the ability to work on various labor-intensive projects, including picking up trash along area highways, painting community buildings, and performing repair work at the county fairgrounds.
Offenders commit to two days a week and work from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., which allows them to also hold down a 40-hour a week job and to live at home. Avitia was ordered to participate in the Workenders program through fall 2003.
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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