Mother who used “lost” credit card avoids jail sentence

Government pardons 28-year-old who stocked up on diapers and gasoline

Sara Velert
Emilia Sorta was sentence to two years and four months in prison before she was pardoned.
Emilia Sorta was sentence to two years and four months in prison before she was pardoned.Samuel Sánchez

Emilia Soria felt as if she'd "won the lottery." The government announced that she was being pardoned just a few days before she was due to go to prison for a crime she committed in 2007 - using a credit card she found on the street to buy food, gas and diapers worth under 300 euros.

The good news caught this 28-year-old mother of three outside the courthouses in Madrid's Plaza de Castilla last week, where she and her husband were collecting signatures in support of her case.

"I felt overjoyed; I am very happy," she said. "It's about time [the pardon came through]."

Emilia was facing two years and four months in prison for picking up a wallet she found "on the street" in May 2007 and using it to make several purchases. She was 22 and a single mom raising two small daughters.

"I had no job, and my family could not help me. I had nothing," she says.

She says she felt scared when she walked into a supermarket in Utiel, in the Valencia region, but thought "I need food and diapers for my daughters." The cashier did not realize that the credit card and ID were not hers, and said nothing about the 193.98-euro purchase.

Emilia used the card again at another establishment, where she spent 45.71 euros, and at a gas station, where she paid 50 euros. After that she threw the cards into a sewer, according to the court ruling against her.

Almost six years later, Emilia is married and has had a third daughter. She has committed no new crimes, and the owner of the credit card has since forgiven her. But last January, a court refused to put her prison sentence on hold while her pardon was being considered (she applied for it in July 2012).

Emilia went on several television programs to explain her case. It was during her appearance a week ago on the popular Ana Rosa talk show on Telecinco that a lawyer named Jorge Albertini saw her and decided to help her with her latest appeal.

"I couldn't be more grateful to him," said Emilia. Online support for her was also high. Emilia's family started a petition on Change.org to demand that she not be sent to jail, and over 173,000 people signed it, making it one of the most successful initiatives ever on the website.

Kamikaze pilot

Emilia, who expressed remorse for her "mistake," told the media that she found her own conviction excessive. "In this country, you either swindle millions of euros or you go to jail," a reference to all the corruption suspects who have yet to be condemned in Spain.

Many people have also questioned the justice system in Spain because the government recently pardoned a kamikaze driver who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for killing a man. Even some politicians supported her cause. Ximo Puig, secretary general for the Valencian Socialists, said it was "incomprehensible and incongruous" that Emilia should not be pardoned for her crime when the kamikaze driver was.

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