The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has charged a Douglas city employee with 21 felonies in connection with a scheme in which government employment security benefits were fraudulently accepted over several months in 2020.
Nubia Lizelda Romo faces trial on 19 counts of making a false statement to obtain public benefits, with the alleged offense dates running from June 2020 through November 2020. She is also charged with fraudulent schemes and theft by misrepresentation, with both counts showing offense dates in June 2020.
Arizona Daily Independent has confirmed that Romo, 42, is on administrative leave with the city at this time.
The charges were filed against Romo in June 2022 by direct complaint of the attorney general’s office. Court records show she was initially summoned to appear in Maricopa County Superior Court on July 25 for an initial appearance but there is no record the summons was actually served.
Judicial Commissioner Richard Hinz reset the initial appearance to Aug. 22 but when Romo still did not show up he issued an arrest warrant. The warrant was reaffirmed by Hinz when Romo once again was not in court Aug. 29.
Romo, 42, finally had her initial appearance on Sept. 12, appearing by video. At that time the outstanding warrant was quashed and Romo was formally released on her own recognizance with a plea of not guilty entered for all 21 counts.
A Dec. 12 preliminary hearing has been ordered although no trial date has been set.
In April, the Arizona Department of Economic Security revealed it had worked with more than 100 law enforcement agencies and over 200 financial institutions to identify hundreds of people across the state involved in fraudulently applying for or accepting unemployment assistance, including special pandemic benefits.
Prosecutions of more than 270 people have already led to the recovery of more than $1.45 billion, although state officials concede another $3 billion is believed to have been fraudulently paid out.
Romo has previously held positions with the Greater Douglas Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Arizona Governments Organization (SEAGO) Area Agency on Aging.
Then in early January 2021, Romo went to work for the city of Douglas as a marketing and communications specialist tasked with increasing community outreach and well as engagement and awareness of city services and initiatives.
Court records show Romo is represented by Christina Walker of the Maricopa County Legal Defender’s Office, with Assistant Attorney General Isabella Leavitt prosecuting.