Green River Star -

Woman sentenced for forgery

 


A woman will serve between three-and-five years prison for forging documents in a effort to receive more than $2 million in loans.

Tina L. Linkenauger, 49, appeared in the Third District Court of Judge Nena James at an argued sentencing hearing Friday afternoon.

Linkenauger previously plead guilty to seven felony counts at a change of plea hearing in July 28, 2015. Those charges were three counts of possession of forged writings, three counts of forgery and one count of false written statements to obtain property or credit.

Under the partial plea agreement, three counts of possession of forged writings, 13 counts of forgery, three counts of false written statements to obtain property or credit, and one count of unauthorized use of personal identifying information, were dismissed. Sentencing was left up to Judge James, who after a brief recess handed down a three-to-five-year prison sentence with credit given for one day served.

Deputy County Attorney Theresa Thybo said Linkenauger’s behavior and crime replicated a 1994 conviction Linkenauger received for five felony counts of forgery after she forged checks as an employee of FMC. Including her plea, Linkenauger is guilty of 12 felonies, all of which are related to forgery.

“This is not an accident, this is not an oops,” Thybo said.

Because of Linkenauger’s previous convictions, Thybo said prison time was the only appropriate sentence for her, saying Linkenauger should receive a sentence between seven and 10 years.

“If that doesn’t say prison, I don’t know how to explain that to our community,” she said.

However, Linkenauger’s attorney, Tom Fleener, said the crimes weren’t motivated by personal profit, but to bring a needed service into the county. He argued if she was motivated by profit, that “she is the worst fraudulent person ever” because Linkenauger spent more than $300,000 of her own money towards setting up the Sweetwater County Health Clinic. He said the forgeries should be seen in a different light because many of the MOUs and letters submitted would have been signed anyway.

“It’s different if it’s a legal document that would have been signed anyway,” he said.

He referred to the forgeries as technical violations and suggested a hefty fine and probation would be appropriate for the crimes committed.

Judge James received 19 letters of support for Linkenauger and heard testimony from two of her friends. Jesus Sosa, a tenant of Linkenauger’s, said he considers her more a friend than a landlord after she helped him while he was undergoing cancer treatment, saying she was very compassionate to him and did not charge late fees or evict him.

“She’s got a heart of gold,” Sosa said.

During victim impact statements, former Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo read a letter to the court about the unauthorized usage of his signature. He said it was especially hard since he knew the family a long time.

Fleener objected to the victim impact statement by Tim Kaumo saying the charge to which he was addressing was dismissed.

“My signature and others was used to obtain money in a criminal manner,” Kaumo said. “What message would we send when we give a slap on the hand for serious accounts?”

Kaumo said as Rock Springs’ Mayor, at the time, his signature acted as a stamp of approval for the entire city.

“To have my name as well as others is a personal attack on us and our reputation,” he said. “I think it’s important that the sentence fits the crime.”

The state called two witnesses Ann Stoeger, area director for United States Development of Agricultural Rural Development in Wyoming. She said she worked on the Sweetwater County Community Health Center loan for two years. Stoeger said she had another loan specialist on it, but that officer was taken off of the loan project and downgraded in position because of the problems with this loan application. Stoeger was asked to take over this loan application.

“This was a difficult process and it shouldn’t have been that difficult,” she said.

The request was for $1.9 million to start up the Sweetwater County Health Center started in 2009. It also included some money for operating costs and $118,000 for Linkenaugers annual salary, which Stoeger said was above the norm, which is $80,000.

She said normally when an application comes in the applicants go over the top to make sure everything is turned in, however, that was not the case in this application. She said it took over a year to receive signed memorandums of understanding. Stoeger said they were slow on getting things done, but wanted the loan application to go through fast.

“They were extremely pushy in trying to get this loan through,” she said.

In 2013, Stoeger was double checking the MOU’s that were signed to make sure those who signed it were still in support of the project.

It only took her two phone calls to find an unsettling pattern. Both of the people she talked with said they did not sign the MOU and did not even know what she was talking about. Stoeger figured out quickly she was dealing with forgeries. She notified her supervisor who then turned it over the Department of Criminal Investigation.

 

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