ST. GEORGE — A defendant who was arrested for attempting to fill fraudulent prescriptions at a local pharmacy off Mall Drive earlier this month appeared in court for sentencing last week.

File photo of the St. George Police Department responding to a call in St. George, Utah, Oct. 8, 2023 | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Sara Souryasak, 26, of Oakland, California, appeared in 5th District Court for sentencing on one second-degree felony count of fraudulent manufacture to distribute or solicit a controlled substance and one misdemeanor charge of failing to stop at command of police.

Souryasak was originally charged with 10 counts, including two second-degree felony counts of producing false identification.

She also faced three counts of possession of altered or forged prescriptions and one count of interfering with an arresting officer, along with three counts of fraudulent manufacture to distribute or solicit a controlled substance and one count for failing to stop at command of police. Those charges were dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea.

The defendant appeared in court two days prior for a bail reduction hearing, which was denied and the judge ordered that the no-bail hold remain in effect. On Thursday, Souryasak was back in court for what was initially scheduled as a preliminary waiver hearing, but instead, the defendant was sentenced in the case following oral arguments by both sides.

The arrest in St. George 

On Dec. 2, a pharmacy on Mall Drive reported that a woman had presented three fraudulent prescriptions and was still at the pharmacy waiting for the medications to be filled, according to charging documents filed at the time of the arrest.

2021 file photo for illustrative purposes only of officers responding to grocery store on South Mall Drive in St. George, Utah, Dec. 16, 2021 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The pharmacy staff called police after contacting the prescribing physician’s office who said the doctor had written no such prescriptions. Authorities say there were additional reports of forged prescriptions being dropped off at other pharmacies in the area.

Officers found Souryasak in the lobby and as soon as they turned their backs, she attempted to flee. When stopped and confronted about the prescriptions, she reportedly told officers “she made them herself” and admitted to making the two driver’s licenses in other individuals’ names, which were recovered during a search and later identified the suspect.

Souryasak was arrested and booked into jail later that same day and held without bail.

A check of court records revealed that on Nov. 20, Souryasak was arrested by California Highway Patrol in Westminster, located in Orange County approximately 30 miles south of Los Angeles. She was then booked into the Central Women’s Jail in Santa Ana facing one count each of grand theft auto, driving without a license and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent.

Two days later, she made an initial appearance in Superior Court in Orange County where she pleaded guilty to two of the charges, one count of buying or receiving a stolen vehicle, a misdemeanor, and to the infraction for driving without a license. During the hearing, Souryasak was sentenced to serve six days in jail. Within days of her release, she was arrested at the pharmacy in St. George.

Both sides argue for opposing outcomes 

Composite image with background stock photo of 5th District Court and overlay booking photo of Sara Souryasak, 26, of Oakland, California, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Dec. 2, 2023 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

During the hearing, county prosecutor Lane Wood opened by saying the defendant, who has no ties to the local area, traveled to Utah “solely for the purpose of committing these crimes.” He also remarked on her criminal history in California.

Wood closed by asking the court to sentence the defendant to 60 days in jail — instead of placing her on probation — as a way of sending a message that people cannot come to this community and victimize the local residents.

Caleb Cottam, Souryasak’s defense attorney, said the arrest served as a deterrent for his client to change the path she was on. He added that Souryasak was in an accident in California in August, which left her with a brain injury and other health issues, including migraine headaches. He asked the court to allow his client to return home so that she could take care of her medical issues and attend school.

Souryasak told the court she was going to school to become a software developer and asked her attorney if the felony conviction would affect her enrollment status.

Cottam told the court that he advised his client there was no way to determine how the felony would affect her schooling in California, but if she completed her sentence successfully, they could apply for a post-conviction reduction.

Stock photo | Photo by BackyardProduction/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

He closed by asking the court to place his client on probation in lieu of a prison or jail sentence so she could return to California and take care of her medical issues.

The judge’s ruling 

District Judge John J. Walton said that since Souryasak had committed crimes in California, with the recent case that she just served a jail sentence for, then it was Oakland, California, where she needed to be.

“I don’t think the people of Utah need to pay to feed and house you,” Walton added.

The judge then sentenced the defendant to serve 30 days in jail with credit for time served. Her probation will be terminated upon her release so that she can complete probation term that was ordered on her case in California.

The judge went on to say the 30-day jail sentence “is a gift to you,” and warned the defendant that if she remained in the state, a trip to back to jail could be in her future.

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