Alleged embezzler bought wedding ring, trash service | AspenTimes.com
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Alleged embezzler bought wedding ring, trash service

A Carbondale woman accused of embezzling from her former employer allegedly used some of the funds on purchases such as her wedding ring, airfare to her native Sweden and new skis, according to court documents.Carmen Andrews also allegedly used some of the tens of thousands of dollars stolen from the Aspen Valley Land Trust for less extravagant items, such as paying her personal income taxes, her garbage bills and professional fees for the real estate business she ran on the side, documents show.Andrews is facing three charges of felony theft for activities she allegedly undertook as a bookkeeper at the land trust between April 2002 and her acrimonious departure on March 12, 2004.An affidavit for an arrest warrant that was recently unsealed details the case built against Andrews by investigators for the Carbondale Police Department. The affidavit by Detective Daniel Bowen alleges that Andrews opened bank accounts without the knowledge of her boss and used legitimate land trust accounts and credit cards to pay her personal bills.She was allegedly able to hide her activities for nearly two years because she alone handled many of the organization’s financial transactions.The alleged financial abuses were caught only after Andrews had an argument with her boss, AVLT Executive Director Martha Cochran, according to Bowen’s information. Cochran warned Andrews to quit spending time on her real estate business while she was on the clock with the land trust.”On March 11, 2004, Ms. Cochran warned Ms. Andrews that she would be fired the next time she used AVLT time or resources for her business,” Bowen’s affidavit said. “Ms. Andrews became angry and left. She resigned the following day.”But Andrews apparently didn’t cover the tracks of her alleged financial indiscretions well enough before she left. Cochran and other AVLT officials began to suspect fiscal improprieties when they discovered Andrews hadn’t closed a Capitol One account as she had been told to do in June 2003.A statement from Capitol One allegedly shows purchases had been made on the land trust account for what appeared to be Andrews’ personal use.The discovery prompted AVLT officials to dig deeper into financial records. According to Bowen, it was determined that Andrews had used the Capitol One account and land trust funds to pay personal bills such as $119.75 for garbage hauling, $160 to pay for her real estate company’s membership at the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, ads for her company, business cards as well as membership to a gym and hotel expenses.Further digging by AVLT indicated that Andrews allegedly forged checks on the land trust account at Community Banks. Cochran was the only employee authorized to sign checks. All checks were supposed to be brought to her for approval.Cochran found 41 checks that allegedly had her signature forged, according to Bowen. In one case, Andrews allegedly used the AVLT account to have a Dell Inspiron 5150 computer shipped to her home outside of Carbondale.In another case, it is alleged she used the land trust checking account to pay her property taxes with the Garfield County treasurer.According to the allegations Andrews showed chutzpah by having new skis and ski boots delivered to her at the land trust office in downtown Carbondale. The equipment was allegedly purchased with AVLT funds.The Aspen Valley Land Trust, which is in the business of preserving land from development, also allegedly paid $395.90 for Carmen Andrews Realty’s membership in the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors, according to court documents.The police case against Andrews also accuses her of using $2,200 from a legitimate land trust bank account to open an unauthorized account at Wells Fargo Bank in May 2003. Cochran told investigators she didn’t know the Wells Fargo account had been opened.That account was used for a variety of purchases, the most eye-catching being $150 for enrollment in the Ligmincha Institute, a Buddhist educational facility, according to the arrest affidavit.Andrews is also accused of using a legitimate AVLT credit card to purchase a $775 wedding band and a $1,150 platinum channel-set diamond band. Land trust staffers “remember the day Ms. Andrews received the ring at the AVLT office,” Bowen’s affidavit said. “It was her wedding ring.”Not only was it purchased using land trust funds, according to police, it was ordered in Cochran’s name to get around billing and shipping discrepancies.The legitimate AVLT credit card was also allegedly used by Andrews to take a trip to Sweden in November 2003.Andrews was arrested and bonded out of Garfield County Jail for $30,000 on May 19. She couldn’t be reached yesterday for comment about the police allegations. There was no answer at the telephone number listed for Andrews in court documents.Her attorney, Dan Shipp, said he couldn’t comment until he learns more about the evidence held by the district attorney’s office. “I don’t have any concept at this point that she committed the acts she’s alleged to have committed,” said Shipp.AVLT, the oldest and one of the highest regarded land conservancies in Colorado, alerted its members about the issue last month. Cochran said steps have been taken so that no one person can thoroughly control the organization’s financial accounts.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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