Woman accused of malingering to sidestep jail

SANDPOINT — A Priest River woman convicted of grand theft was ordered Thursday to show proof of hospital treatment amid suspicions that she is using another pregnancy to shirk serving time in jail.

Nicole Jody Lynn Love told 1st District Judge Barbara Buchanan she has been in and out of the hospital due to complications from a high-risk pregnancy and began having contractions on Thursday morning.

Love, 37, pleaded to embezzling from her former employer, CityServiceValcon in Oldtown, in 2010. She was the fuel distributor’s assistant manager at the time the thefts were discovered.

Love entered an Alford plea, under which she admitted no wrongdoing but conceded she could be convicted if she were put on trial. Such a plea is treated the same as a plea of guilt at sentencing.

Judge Steve Verby last year imposed a suspended prison sentence of two to five years and ordered her to serve to serve 90 days in jail. Although court documents allege Love embezzled as much as $46,000, she was ultimately ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution.

Love’s pregnancy with a previous child caused delays in the criminal proceedings against her. An impending trial was delayed when Love said an unnamed benefactor pledged to pay restitution, but the benefactor never came through.

Medical problems with her or her children have caused additional delays, court records show.

Love was finally ordered to serve her three-month custodial sentence in April, but the terms of her incarceration were later modified to allow her to serve the time on weekends due to her latest pregnancy, court records indicate.

Love was excused from jail in May so she could attend her son’s high school graduation. Earlier this month, she advised the jail that she could not report to the jail because she was hospitalized.

But at least two people anonymously phoned Bonner County Jail officials and reported that Love was not hospitalized and faked labor pains to avoid jail, court records show. Jail personnel checked with the Newport hospital and found no record of her admittance.

“They called the wrong hospital,” Love told Buchanan on Thursday.

Love later declined to report to the jail due because her daughter was involved in a bicycle accident and there was no one else to care for the 7-year-old, court records indicate.

Another hearing in Love’s case is set for Sept. 5.

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