TAOS — Rose Vargas, the former manager of the U.S. Bank branch on Taos Plaza, has been sentenced to two years in prison for embezzlement as part of a plea agreement reached in February.
Due to concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the greater risks it poses to people in older age groups, however, a judge could allow Vargas, 64, to serve the sentence on house arrest.
The longtime bank manager was indicted by a grand jury in May 2019 on two second-degree felony counts of embezzlement and stealing $421,000 from four elderly customers, including her parents, from 2015 to 2018.
Vargas signed the plea agreement with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Feb. 25, pleading guilty to one fourth-degree count of embezzlement in exchange for a three-year sentencing cap.
State District Judge Emilio Chavez sentenced Vargas to a total of nine years Wednesday but suspended seven years in accordance with the deal. She also will be required to pay restitution to her victims.
While addressing the court, Vargas said she and her attorney, Alan Maestas, had submitted a proposed amount to be drawn from her bank pension.
“I will live my life as an example of my lessons learned and my lessons yet to be learned,” Vargas said. “I will embrace the second chance that God has already graced me with.”
Several letters were submitted to the court on Vargas’ behalf. At least one family member also spoke in court in her defense.
Maestas will have until Sept. 1 to submit arguments regarding why Vargas should be allowed to serve the sentence on house arrest.
Chavez said he was confounded by how someone who had risen to such a high rank in the banking industry and in her local community could commit such a serious crime. He said he also understood that Vargas had not paid taxes since 2006.
“It’s a confusing situation because normally when I’m dealing with embezzlement cases, I’m usually dealing with someone who has a drug addiction, gambling addiction, and this one truly seems like somebody who was spending above their means,” Chavez said.
“It does catch up with you,” he added.
If the judge denies house arrest, Vargas will be required to turn herself in Sept. 2.
This story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister publication to the Santa Fe New Mexican.