Edgewood businesswoman Martha Eden pled guilty to a second-degree felony embezzlement count Jan. 8.
Eden had been charged with two embezzlement counts, but made a plea bargain. She will face sentencing March 7, according to Kayla Anderson, public information officer for the District Attorney’s office.
The charges are centered around Eden’s business, Eden Investment Co.
Eden is the treasurer for the Edgewood Chamber of Commerce and High Desert Riders. She works as a realtor, and has been a contributor to The Independent.
The criminal charges follow a civil case in which some of her investors sued her for damages, alleging that she had stolen more than $3 million.
Witnesses in the civil case included Ralph and Susan Hill of Edgewood; Ray Seagers, who lives with Eden and works with her at his real estate company; Kay Davis, formerly Edgewood town administrator and currently chair of the town’s planning and zoning commission; Dan and Lora Kniffin, who formerly worked with Eden; Judith Tucker of Edgewood, another investor; and four financial institutions.
Eden told The Independent late last year that she had an account with Peregrine Financial Group which allowed her to make trades “like a hedge fund or a mutual fund” if she had a balance of at least $250,000. She also said that Peregrine had gone bankrupt, costing her some $75,000 that she said was in that account at the time.
Other documents in the civil case said that Eden “never made any promises or guarantees to defendants about the return on their investment and she never misrepresented anything,” adding, “Moreover, Defendants are sophisticated business people with many investment options and a lot of experience, who knew the risks of investing.”
Eden repeated this to The Independent, saying that she had no contract with any of the investors, and had taken no fees. “I don’t expect to pay back $3 million,” Eden said. “The actual investment they made was like a million two, and that’s a reasonable amount. I can probably come up with that in 10 years. I didn’t take their money, I lost their money. I didn’t use it for my own purposes. I never took fees of any kind from anybody. Like I told you on the phone we had no written contracts. I was just told, ‘Do the best you can.’”
She continued, “I shouldn’t even get into this. But recovery was my only thought. … It was a poor choice, I can agree with that. I could have said, ‘Here’s your money, what’s left,’ and the rest of it probably wouldn’t have happened. I wanted to make them whole, I wanted to keep going. I didn’t want to have to stop.”
The maximum penalty Eden could face is a nine years imprisonment and not more than $10,000 fine. This “basic sentence” could be altered up to one-third “for aggravating or mitigating circumstances,” according to the plea and disposition agreement in the case. That would be followed by a two-year parole term, the document says.
According to the plea deal, a second felony count over $20,000 was dismissed.
The plea could still be withdrawn by the court, according to the document.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.