This article appeared in the Sept. 24 issue of the Progress Times.
A woman accused of scamming people in western Hidalgo County rejected a plea deal on Monday.
The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office promised to recommend 18 months in prison if Sylvia Rodriguez Flores, 49, of Mission pleaded guilty to theft charges.
During a hearing on Monday morning, Flores rejected the deal — and requested a trial.
“She still stands by her innocence,” said attorney Artemio De La Fuente of Edinburg, who represents Flores. “And that’s it. She plans to dispute the allegations.”
When she met people with legal problems, Flores helped them find attorneys and bondsmen, De La Fuente said, adding that Flores is adamant she didn’t break the law.
In 2016, a man filed a report with the Mission Police Department about Flores.
The Palmview Police Department had arrested his son, and the man wanted the charges dismissed.
Flores claimed she “worked at the Federal Building and she would talk to the Judge to have his son’s charges dismissed,” according to the criminal complaint. The man paid her $3,500.
When the case wasn’t dismissed, the man requested a refund. Flores returned just $500.
Prosecutors accepted the case against Flores, who pleaded guilty to theft. State District Judge Jaime Garza ordered Flores to pay restitution and placed her on community supervision for three years.
While she remained on community supervision, though, prosecutors filed three new theft charges against Flores.
Gabriela Cardenas filed a report with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office in 2019.
Officers had just arrested her husband on a drug charge. Flores told Cardenas the FBI would raid her house.
“Sylvia Flores offered to hold on to money or anything of value while law enforcement officers were investigating them,” according to the criminal complaint.
Cardenas handed over $24,000, according to the criminal complaint. When she asked for the money back, Flores only returned $10,000.
Prosecutors accepted the case. More theft charges followed in 2020 and 2021.
All three charges are state jail felonies, which are punishable by a maximum of two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Prosecutors offered Flores a deal: Plead guilty and spend just 18 months in prison. Flores refused.
State District Judge Marla Cuellar warned Flores about the potential consequences on Monday.
“Because every one is a separate incident, Ms. Flores, if you proceed to a jury, the jury finds you guilty and punishment is assessed, do you understand that those cases can be stacked?” Cuellar said.
Flores said that she understood.
“So, for example — and not saying that this would be the case — let’s say the jury sentences you to 12 months in each of those cases,” Cuellar said. “Do you understand that those could be stacked? And if those were stacked, then that would equate to 36 months? Do you understand that?”
Flores said, again, that she understood.
The court scheduled a pre-trial hearing for November.