Updated: Thursday, 02 Aug 2012, 2:11 PM MDT
Published : Friday, 24 Jun 2011, 1:00 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) - Ronald Santiago, the accused killer of Albuquerque couple John and Bernadette Ohlemacher, pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding another couple in an unrelated case.
He could be sentenced up to 13 1/2 years in prison.
Prosecutors in the Ohlemacher case believed if they could prove Santiago's guilt in the other fraud case, they can also prove he was defrauding the Ohlemachers and killed them to cover it up.
Santiago had been set to go to trial for defrauding Catherine and Matthew Howard, but took a plea deal instead on four counts of forgery and one count of tampering with evidence.
On Friday, Santiago admitted in court that while he was working at Countrywide Mortgage in 2006, he passed off forged checks to the Howards. He also admitted to destroying computer documents connected to the altered checks.
In the Ohlemacher case, Santiago is accused of murdering the couple in 2005. Prosecutors say Santiago allegedly swindled the Ohlemachers in a refinancing deal then killed them to cover up the crime.
In court on Friday, District Judge Pat Murdoch stressed that the two cases are separate, and that the Ohlemacher case is still pending.
In the Howard's case, the state requested a presentence report before Santiago is sentenced in August. His attorney is hoping for probation.