April 23. 2014 8:52PM

Prosecutor: Woman who grossed $100K got public defender for shoplifting case

Union Leader Correspondent

SALEM — A therapist who claimed to have no income and got free legal representation from a public defender after being arrested on a felony shoplifting charge grossed a six-figure income in 2013, according to court records.

Prosecutor Jason Grosky is asking Circuit Court Judge Robert Stephen to reconsider whether Maria Pereyra, 45, of Lawrence, Mass., can keep her response to questions about her finances under court seal.

“At issue here is taxpayers paying the tab to defend a defendant who grossed more than $100,000 last year while recently owning luxury vehicles,” Grosky said in a court motion.

Pereyra was charged Dec. 10 with a felony count of willful concealment by Salem police. Her case is pending in 10th Circuit Court, Salem Division.

Pereyra claimed to have zero income on a sworn financial affidavit while applying for a court-appointed lawyer, and left blank a section asking for work-related and employer information, according to court records.

Grosky informed the court back in February that he confirmed that Pereyra worked at Arbour Counseling Services in Lawrence, Mass., since Dec. 2, 2007, earning $35 an hour as a full-time employee. She also had three cards — a BMW, Mercedes Benz and a Toyota Avalon — recently registered in her name, according to Grosky.

Stephen will have to decide whether Pereyra can continue being represented by the Public Defender’s Office, and whether she should be allowed to keep her legal arguments and other records submitted to the court away from public scrutiny.

Stephen allowed the defense to keep their response about the state’s questions under seal along with reams of supporting documents. Pereyra’s lawyer argued earlier this month that “sensitive account numbers and other information” was in her pleadings.

“The court explained that it would be too time-consuming for the defense to go through the pleadings and redact certain information,” Grosky said.

Those documents include a copy of Pereyra’s 2013 tax return showing she grossed $100,242 in pay the previous year, several letters and motor vehicle records.

Grosky suggested that the public had an interest in being able to scrutinize Pereyra’s response.

“The state contends that the public’s right to know should not yield to the proposition that to black out sensitive information would take time,” Grosky said in court papers.

Pereyra has not been charged with any other crime, but Grosky noted previously that she provided financial and other information under the penalties of perjury.

“If the defendant is unjustly receiving public counsel, she is depriving the truly needy of those services,” Grosky said in court papers.

Pereyra is due back in court on May 14.