FARMINGTON — A woman from Strong who pleaded guilty to stealing credit card information and using it to pay bills must pay restitution of $4,240 within 10 months to avoid a conviction.

If she also complies with a one-year delayed sentencing agreement, a theft charge will be dismissed. If she doesn’t, the plea deal would be off and she would face up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Erica L. Couture, 33, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of theft by unauthorized taking in Franklin County Superior Court. A felony theft charge was dismissed by the state.

Her attorney, Woody Hanstein, said she pleaded guilty because she believes if the case went to trial a judge or jury could believe the state’s evidence and she could be found guilty. She has an 8-year-old child and a good job and believes it is in her best interest and that of her family to put this behind her, he said.

Couture said it “was too much of a risk to take.”

Couture is accused of using a friend’s debit card information to pay bills. She claims the friend gave her the information because she didn’t have a checking account or credit card to make car payments and that she paid the money back.

According to Wilton Police Chief Heidi Wilcox, the card belonged to a Wilton resident who made a payment to help Couture. An investigation showed Couture was using the card information to pay bills, Wilcox said in March.

Felicia Floyd, whose card was used, told the court Wednesday she did not agree with the sentence. It makes it seem like it was a “glorified loan,” she said.

“I feel like it should have been handled differently,” said Floyd, a corrections officer.

She said she didn’t know how Couture got her financial information. 

“Erica not only took my money, she took my trust,” Floyd said. She considered the sentence a “slap on the wrist” to Couture, she said.

Both sides appeared to have evidence concerns in the case if it went to trial.

“It certainly sounds like both sides are not happy,” Justice Robert Mullen said.

Hanstein said a previous theft charge mentioned by Floyd happened when Couture was 18 and took a pair of earrings from Filene’s. She confessed and paid a fine, he said.

Hanstein said that during two hours of questioning by police, Couture maintained her explanation that Floyd gave her the debit card number and a PIN number to use to pay car payments because she didn’t have a checking account and she always paid her back.

She also asked police how it was that she got the PIN number if it wasn’t given to her by Floyd and how it was that this was not noticed when it was going on for 16 months.

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Erica Couture (Franklin County Detention Center)

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