An area woman who spent 11 years as a fugitive after stealing from the Aurora hospital where she worked has been sentenced to jail.
Erika H. Luna, who was arrested last winter as Naperville police were investigating a traffic crash, still faces trial on a felony charge of forgery, stemming from the April 2002 case.
Luna, 46, of Montgomery, pleaded guilty Tuesday in DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton to an amended felony charge of theft of more than $500 but less than $10,000. Court records showed nine companion counts of issuing or delivering a forged document were dismissed as part of a pretrial agreement.
Judge Robert G. Kleeman accepted Luna’s plea and sentenced her to 180 days in DuPage County Jail, records indicated. Kleeman also placed Luna on two years of probation.
Luna at the time of the crime worked in the human resources department of Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora. Authorities earlier this year said she cashed an estimated $10,000 worth of checks that had been made out to former hospital employees and job applicants.
Naperville police arrested her while investigating a traffic crash the afternoon of Feb. 26 on the College of DuPage’s Naperville campus, at 1223 Rickert Drive, in the west-central part of the city. Police, while checking Luna’s identification, learned she was wanted in the 11-year-old forgery and theft case.
City of Aurora spokesman Dan Ferrelli said a police investigation showed Luna began forging checks in late 2001 and early 2002. She “forged, cashed and deposited into her own, personal accounts … checks belonging to past hospital employees,” Ferrelli said in March.
The police investigation began in April 2002, after a Rush-Copley human resources official “was contacted by someone who was going to be an employee at the hospital and attended an orientation session in 2001, for which she was supposed to be paid,” Ferrelli said.
The applicant “ended up not taking the position with the hospital, and never received a paycheck,” Ferrelli said. The woman did, however, receive a federal W2 form at the end of the year, for taxes owed on the paid orientation session.
Hospital officials investigated the matter and determined Luna forged the applicant’s paycheck and deposited it into a personal account. Ferrelli said further investigation “uncovered numerous other, similar, instances” of fraud.
Luna in 2002 was indicted in DuPage County and Kane County, as Rush-Copley is in DuPage County, while the two accounts into which she deposited the forged checks were at banks in Kane County. The fraud allegations totaled $5,500 in DuPage County and $4,600 in Kane County.
Records indicated Luna in early January 2003 failed to appear for scheduled hearings in DuPage County Circuit Court and Kane County Circuit Court. She forfeited her bonds and became a fugitive from justice.
Ferrelli said police “hunted extensively” for Luna before concluding she had fled to either Nevada or Mexico. Their attempts to confirm that information or find her “came up negative,” he said.
Luna is scheduled to appear Aug. 21 in Kane County Circuit Court.