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Prison psychologist accused

of making false rape claim

She split her own lip with a pin, scraped her knuckles with sandpaper and had her friend punch her in the face. US investigators say she even ripped open her blouse, then wet her pants to give the appearance she had been knocked unconscious.

But it was all part of what authorities say was an elaborate hoax by the woman to convince her husband she was raped so they could move to a safer neighbourhood.

Charges filed by the Sacramento County district attorney allege Laurie Ann Martinez, a prison psychologist, conspired with the friend to create the appearance that she was beaten, robbed and raped by a stranger in her Sacramento home on April 10.

Ms Martinez, her friend and two co-workers eventually told police the whole thing was a set-up to convince Ms Martinez’s husband that they needed to move from a blighted, high-crime area.

It didn’t work. Instead, the couple filed for divorce six weeks after the incident, according to court records.

“If all you wanted to do is move, there’s other ways than staging a burglary and rape,” said Sacramento police Sergeant Andrew Pettit. “She went to great lengths to make this appear real.”

Ms Martinez, 36, a psychologist for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, reported she had come home that day to find a stranger in her kitchen, authorities said.

“As she tried to run away, the suspect grabbed her and hit her in the face,” court records say in describing what she told police. “She lost consciousness and then when she awoke she found her pants and underwear pulled down to her ankles.”

Missing from her home were two laptop computers, Ms Martinez’s purse, an Xbox video game console, a camera and numerous credit cards that Ms Martinez said the stranger had stolen.

In reality, the items were all at the home of her friend, Nicole April Snyder, authorities allege. Investigators said Ms Martinez had Ms Snyder punch her in the face with boxing gloves they bought for that purpose.

Ms Martinez began crying hysterically when police arrived, according to court papers.

Ms Martinez’s two lawyers in the family court actions, Russell Carlson and Ben Ramsey, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment. Her husband’s attorneys in the family law case declined to comment.

Ms Martinez was arrested on Monday and freed on $US50,000 bond. There is no record that she has a criminal attorney before her arraignment set for Monday.

Ms Snyder, 33, is charged with the same conspiracy counts, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest. Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said she had no indication that Ms Snyder had retained an attorney.

If convicted of conspiracy, each woman faces up to three years in prison, Ms Orio said.

Police detectives and crime scene investigators spent hundreds of hours on the case, until one of Ms Martinez’s prison co-workers came forward to say Ms Martinez had been talking at work about faking a crime at her home to persuade her husband to move, Sergeant Pettit said.

“It doesn’t sit well for other women who really are victims, crying wolf,” Sergeant Pettit said.

Ms Martinez had been a psychologist overseeing other mental health workers treating inmates at California State Prison, Sacramento, department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. The prison east of Sacramento was the scene last week of a fight among more than 150 inmates that sent 11 inmates to outside hospitals.

Ms Thornton said Ms Martinez was redirected to the department’s headquarters in May, when the investigation began, and has had no contact with inmates since then. Ms Thornton said the department was also conducting its own investigation.

Ms Martinez did not immediately return an emailed request for comment left with Ms Thornton.

Robert Kahane, executive officer of the California Board of Psychology, said Ms Martinez’s licence was valid.

However, “we are working diligently to ensure immediate and continued consumer protection as quickly as possible”, he said.

AP


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