An Idaho Falls woman has been arrested after she reportedly manipulated a woman into paying her $45,000 over three years.
Court records state Maria Martinez, 44, would tell the victim that various government agencies, including the city of Idaho Falls, were fining her, then offer to pay the fine if the victim agreed to pay her back.
The affidavit states Martinez would several times refer to a man named "Rene" who worked at the "Social Security Office." Martinez told the victim several times that "Rene" could help her with fines and fees in exchange for money. The victim said she never had any contact with "Rene," except through text messages.
The victim said the payments started with Martinez offering to pay a bill for the victim. Martinez then reportedly asked the victim to help her cover court and attorney fees.
The victim contacted the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office in February, saying Martinez had since threatened her to keep paying. The victim said Martinez threatened to report her to immigration authorities, and said her children would be taken from her. The victim said she had received a large amount of insurance money after her husband died in a work-related accident. Martinez reportedly stepped in offering to help the victim, who did not speak English and did not have experience paying bills.
The affidavit lists payments Martinez told the victim she needed to make, including to Medicaid for a combined $6,000. One of these payments was for $4,000. Martinez reportedly told her a school psychiatrist had diagnosed her children as "crazy." Martinez reportedly said the victim needed to make an appointment, but the victim refused, saying her children were fine.
A few days later, Martinez reportedly called back and told the victim she was going to lose access to Medicaid. Martinez told the victim that if she paid $4,000 to "Rene" he could make the problem go away.
Martinez also reportedly told the victim she needed to pay $5,500 in "hidden fees" for her late husband's insurance money. In another incident, Martinez told the victim she had to pay $2,000 to a judge for a trespassing charge to be dropped. Martinez also reportedly told the victim she needed to pay $1,000 for a fine because the victim's trailer was damaged, then another $1,500 fine for garbage on the victim's property.
The affidavit accuses Martinez of making up each of these bills and fines. The victim would reportedly give Martinez cash to pay the fees, and Martinez would reportedly pocket the money. Martinez denied offering to help the victim pay any of the fees or accepting money from the victim, except for a $210 monthly payment for gas.
The victim told deputies Martinez said "Rene" told her she needed to pay an additional $13,000 in insurance fees. The affidavit states Martinez said the victim's late husband's boss was demanding she return the trailer home she lived in. He had reportedly bought the trailer for the victim after her husband died, but Martinez claimed he was demanding it back because the victim now had a boyfriend. The $13,000 was allegedly for attorney fees to fight his claim.
The victim said she paid Martinez $2,800 before calling her late husband's boss. He said he was not attempting to reclaim the trailer home, and said there were no attorneys involved.
The affidavit states detectives listened in on a call between the victim and Martinez in which they discussed the money the victim allegedly owed. Martinez reportedly denied knowing about the fee until the detective told her he had heard the phone conversation.
Martinez was charged with grand theft, punishable with up to 14 years in prison. She was released from jail after posting a $10,000 bond.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 6 in Bonneville County Court.