Suspect allegedly added fraudulent charge via computer

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FARMINGTON — A former employee of the San Juan County Adult Detention Center is accused of adding a fraudulent charge to an inmate's file, which caused the victim to be incarcerated longer than necessary.

Heather Begay, 29, is accused of felony counts of false imprisonment, computer abuse and tampering with public records, according to court records.

She is accused of using a county computer to tamper with an inmate's file, which caused the alleged victim to be incarcerated for an extra day in jail, according to the arrest warrant affidavit and Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

Begay did not have legal representation Friday.

A deputy for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office was dispatched around 4:13 p.m. on July 3 to the county jail, where the deputy spoke to a lieutenant about the alleged incident.

The lieutenant stated it had been verified that Begay was the officer responsible for adding the additional charge, which was a violation of a county ordinance for improper disposal, according to court documents.

The affidavit states the process to add a charge to an inmate's file is not easy and is almost impossible to do unintentionally.

Begay was interviewed and sent home on administrative leave pending a termination hearing.

A detective was given two CDs with video. One CD had video footage from a lapel camera of the interview conducted with Begay. The other CD was footage of Begay working at the time the alleged additional charge was added.

Begay stated in the video she was in the inmate's file and was "messing around" looking through the charging options when she "accidentally" saved the charge.

She added that she clicked the "do not save" option upon exiting the file, according to court documents.

On July 11, a detective was informed by deputy administrator Daniel Webb that Begay had been terminated from her employment at the jail, and jail officials wanted to pursue criminal charges.

The detective later spoke to Begay on July 11. Begay told the detective the alleged victim asked her if she could look up when her arraignment date was. She added it was normal for her to look up that information for inmates.

It was on Oct. 25 that the San Juan County District Attorney's Office advised there was enough probable cause to charge Begay for the alleged incident.

Begay has been booked and released from the county jail per a court order. Her preliminary hearing is set for Tuesday morning in Aztec Magistrate Court.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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