Jury To Decide Embezzlement Case Without Defendant In Attendance

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A trial involving a Douglas woman accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a local company will start Tuesday in a Cochise County courtroom, but the defendant is not expected to be in attendance. In fact, she has not appeared for any hearings in over a year.

Ivonne Machado Arellano was indicted in 2019 of 12 felonies involving money laundering, theft, and forgery related to more than 80 checks written between January 2017 and September 2018 on two accounts belonging to GRASP Heating and Cooling. More than 3,700 pages of documents have been generated in the case since the Douglas Police Department initiated a criminal investigation in 2018.

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Arellano, 45, was released on her own recognizance during arraignment in January 2020. She was warned by a judge at the time of the consequences for failing to appear at hearings, including trial. The main issue is that the case against Arellano can continue to be prosecuted without her attendance.

The decision to proceed in Arellano’s case with a trial in absentia was made easier for the Cochise County Attorney’s Office by the fact the elderly victim representative is seeking a resolution to the case sooner than later, prosecutor Michael Powell told Arizona Daily Independent.

“Given that victims have a right to a speedy resolution of the case under the Arizona Constitution and state law, it seems appropriate to proceed in absentia,” Powell explained. “Victims should not have to wait indefinitely to see justice.”

Powell noted, however, that Arizona law does not allow for Arellano to be sentenced in absentia if she is convicted. As a result, if the 12-member jury finds Arellano guilty of any counts then Judge Timothy Dickerson will order an arrest warrant with a no-bond provision.

Sentencing would occur once Arellano is taken into custody. She faces more than 30 years in prison if convicted of all 12 counts.

The last mention in the public court file of Arellano’s involvement in the case is a Nov. 2, 2020 hearing at which her court-appointed attorney advised the court he told Arellano to not attend the day’s hearing because she was purportedly ill.

Two weeks later a statewide arrest warrant was issued when Arellano failed to appear in court once again. Shortly thereafter Powell filed a motion seeking approval from Dickerson to proceed to trial despite Arellano’s absence.

A new attorney, Jessica Zachary, was appointed to represent Arellano at the trial due to conflicts the previous attorney had with his client. It is unclear from public records whether Zachary has had any contact with Arellano.

The trial is expected to last all week.