Shawna Tobin, 36, was charged in district court on Tuesday with four fourth-degree felonies and 11 misdemeanors on suspicion of fraud.
Farmington police said Tobin created a fake charity called Get Strong and collected money from local business for about a year, starting in August 2011. Police believe she defrauded at least 15 businesses for about $10,000, according to her arrest affidavit. Some businesses made several donations of about $100 to $200.
Police said Tobin told business owners she was collecting money for impoverished children and that some of the money went to buy
Bill Clark, the owner of A-Plus Well Service in Bloomfield, donated $1,100 to Tobin.
"She kept on coming back with all these great stories," Clark said. "She had a big song and dance. When you look back I should have known something was wrong."
Mr Mobile Communications in Aztec, Farmington Fire Equipment and Magic Roofing in Farmington also gave Tobin more than $1,000, according to the affidavit.
Tobin was arrested in November, and she applied to the district attorney's office to be accepted into a diversion program, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said. To be accepted, she had to pay back at least half the money she was accused of stealing and set up a payment plan
Chief Public Defender Matthew Cockman said Tobin couldn't afford the program. She couldn't pay back the missing money because she lost her job when her employer learned she was accused of fraud.
"When you are accused of a crime, it puts a damper on your earning capacity," he said. "Now, she'll be a convicted felon and have all the problems convicted felons have."
Not being allowed to complete diversion will also hurt victims because they aren't as likely to receive restitution, Cockman said.
"If the victim doesn't get made whole, it's not in their best interest," he said.
Clark said that as a local business owner, he is approached multiple times per week to donate to a local cause or charity. He said he still makes donations to credible causes like Boys and Girls Clubs, law enforcement organizations and educational programs.
"I'm not going to miss a meal because of (the fraud)," he said. "Mostly, it just hurts. You want to think of Farmington as a small town where you don't have to lock your door every time you leave."
Ryan Boetel may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @robetel.