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August 18, 2011
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Detective: Habitual embezzler hit up homeowners association

ASPEN - A Gypsum woman arrested Tuesday faces multiple felonies from a 2009 criminal case in Eagle County, but for the last six months she managed to hold down a job at an Aspen law firm and allegedly steal $27,000 from a homeowners association while working as its part-time bookkeeper.

Brenda Elaine Dobbs, 62, was advised Wednesday in Eagle County Court on felony charges of theft, fraud and habitual criminal activity. Judge Katharine Sullivan set her cash-only bond at $50,000.

Pitkin County authorities picked up Dobbs after Aspen police investigator Ian MacAyeal was tipped off about a week ago that she had stolen money from an Aspen homeowners association. She allegedly swiped the funds with an ATM card the homeowners association let her use in capacity as its bookkeeper, MacAyeal said. When the HOA became suspicious of Dobbs, it froze the account to which she had access, the detective said.

MacAyeal later tracked Dobbs' residence to Snowmass Village, and Tuesday he put an alert out among local law-enforcement agencies that he believed she was driving her Jeep on Brush Creek Road.

Pitkin County Sheriff's Deputy Sarah Roush was in the area and heard the call, and pulled Dobbs over near 1020 Brush Creek Road. Dobbs was cooperative at the time of her arrest on a warrant out of Eagle County, Roush said. She was booked into Pitkin County Jail, and a few hours later was transferred to Eagle County.

MacAyeal, meanwhile, has crafted an arrest warrant for Dobbs in Pitkin County for the embezzlement charge, but it awaits a judge's signature.

"Who knows the extent of what she did here?" MacAyeal said. "It might not stop with the homeowners association."

MacAyeal would not disclose the name of the law firm or homeowners association that hired Dobbs.

He noted that "people really need to do background checks." However, the law firm does not appear to be a victim of any crime, the detective added.

It's believed that Dobbs spent at least six months in the Aspen-

Snowmass area, MacAyeal said. Over the years she has used approximately 30 different aliases, he said.

In October 2002, according to published reports, after Dobbs' third embezzlement conviction, an Eagle County judge sentenced her to five years in prison and ordered her to pay $530,000 to the victim, NSN Network Services in Gypsum.

While working at the Aspen HOA, Dobbs was in a position of financial trust. She had a similar responsibility at NSN Network Services - where her job duties included collecting payments from clients.

Additionally, she also was convicted of theft of government property for her time as secretary and program support assistant for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of General Counsel for Natural Resources, according to the 2003 Report to Congress on the Activities and Operations of the Public Integrity Section.

"From October 1996 through December 2001, Dobbs made false representations on her time and attendance reports, causing her to be paid $18,564.91 for work that she did not perform," the report says. "The government paid her by mailing checks to her Washington, D.C., home. Dobbs also obtained cellular telephones from Sprint and Verizon using a NOAA account number and used the telephones to make personal calls, without authorization. As a result, the government paid Sprint and Verizon $3,152 for Dobbs's unauthorized personal telephone usage."

Public records show that Dobbs has been involved in at least nine criminal cases in Colorado dating back to 1992. The charges revolve around incidents of fraud, forgery and theft, data shows.

She's also under investigation in Garfield County for theft from a business, MacAyeal said.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Aug 18, 2011 01:53AM Published Aug 18, 2011 01:52AM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.