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Judge unseals records after questions about use of public defender

Union Leader Correspondent

July 16. 2014 8:26PM


SALEM — A therapist who got free legal representation from a public defender on a shoplifting charge after claiming to have no income lost a fight to keep documents showing her six-figure earnings private.

Judge Robert Stephen decided in a two-page order that Maria Pereyra, 45, of Lawrence, Mass. will not be able to keep her financial information under court seal.

Salem police prosecutor Jason Grosky raised questions about whether Pereyra should be using a public defender after receiving a tip that she worked for Arbour Counseling Services in Lawrence, Mass.

He later found that Pereyra had been working at the counseling business since Dec. 2, 2007, earning $35 an hour as a full-time employee, according to court records.

One of the records expected to be unsealed is a copy of Pereyra’s tax return showing she grossed $100,242, according to a court motion filed by Grosky.

Pereyra was charged Dec. 10 with a felony count willful concealment by Salem police.

She 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.

In response to Grosky’s questions, Pereyra filed financial and motor vehicle records under seal. She also hired a private lawyer Phil Desfosses who argued at a June 25 hearing that his client should be able to keep her records private. Pereyra maintained the documents contained sensitive information such as account numbers, which could subject her to becoming a victim of identity fraud.

Stephen disagreed that such concerns should keep all of the information sealed. He gave Pereyra 10 days to redact “any account numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers and names of third parties.”

After those redactions, the financial records will become unsealed and available for public inspection.Grosky would not comment on the Pereyra case specifically on Wednesday, but said in general, “the public has a significant right to know how its tax dollars are being used to ensure the money is not being wasted.”

He would notomment further on the Pereyra case, saying it remains an active prosecution.

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