By Margie Wuebker
A former county recorder candidate made an initial appearance in Mercer County Common Pleas Court on Friday after being charged with theft by deception.
The lone charge against Barbara D. Gutierrez, 27, 723 Elm St., Celina, is contained in a bill of information filed Nov. 8 by Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox.
She waived her right to have the case presented to a grand jury during the brief proceeding. Judge Jeffrey Ingraham set 1:30 p.m. Dec. 10 as the time and date for her arraignment hearing. She remains free on her own recognizance.
Gutierrez allegedly deprived Mercer County Job and Family Services of cash amounting to more than $500 but less than $5,000 between December 2003 and September of this year, according to court records.
A certified childcare provider, she allegedly billed the agency for services that were not provided. The Mercer County Sheriff's Office investigated the allegations at the request of the prosecutor's office. If convicted of the fifth-degree felony, Gutierrez faces a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Gutierrez had filed as a Republican candidate for the post of county recorder but withdrew in mid-September in a short letter to the local board of election. She declined to comment further when contacted by a reporter. Incumbent recorder Tammy Barger consequently ran unopposed and was re-elected to a new term.