Dec 9, 2008
ALBUQUERQUE — A federal appeals court has affirmed the sentence of a former Los Alamos National Laboratory worker who pleaded guilty to using bogus purchase orders to embezzle tens of thousand of dollars from the lab.
Dolores Mae Arreola, a former purchasing officer at the lab, pleaded guilty in March 2007 to one count of making false statements or entries, one count of theft or embezzlement of public money and one count of making a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim.
She appealed after being sentenced to four months in prison, four months of home detention and three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution to the federal government and forfeit two vehicles she acquired through the scam.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver affirmed her sentence in a 15-page ruling filed Monday.
The panel found that Arreola's sentence was “procedurally reasonable” given that she had a position of trust at the lab and had the power to grant exceptions to the lab's procurement policies.
Arreola was fired from the lab in July 2005 after the embezzlement scheme was uncovered.
According to court documents, she used her position to funnel money into a land grant association, which she served as president. She then arranged for the Santo Domingo de Cundiyo Heirs Association to be recognized in the lab's procurement system as an authorized vendor.
She stated the association was awarded contracts and purchase orders worth more than $55,000 on three separate occasions — none of which had anything to do with land grants. Arreola would deposit the checks made out to the land grant association in its bank account and then withdraw the money.
On the third occasion, lab officials discovered the scam and the bank froze the account.