Alleged Snowmass embezzler starts up accounting firm in New Mexico
ASPEN – A woman accused of embezzling $415,000 from Anderson Ranch Arts Center now lives in New Mexico, where she apparently has changed her name and runs an accounting firm.
Marlana Lu Howell, 49, is accused of 16 separate wire transfers from an endowment trust with the Snowmass Village nonprofit to two of her personal bank accounts. The amount of the transactions ranged from $339.29 to $50,000, according to the allegations.
Howell was arrested in August. When District Judge James Boyd advised her of 24 felony charges, he also lowered her bond from $250,000 to $100,000. As part of the bond conditions, Boyd told Howell she is forbidden from being employed in a position of financial trust. He also said she can reside in New Mexico or Oklahoma during the course of her case.
Now apparently Howell lives in Santa Fe, N.M. She also has a website – marlanaatkinson.com – that says she has started a solo practice known as Atkinson Accounting Services.
Her website, which refers to her as Marlana J. Atkinson, reads: “After living in Santa Fe for 13 years, Marlana moved to the Aspen Valley area where she worked at an Arts Education Institute, as the Controller for 5 years. She started her solo practice as Atkinson Accounting Services in 2009 and has served clients in the non-profit sector as an accountant and consultant. She has now returned to Santa Fe, New Mexico with her three dogs and to the home she has loved.”
Arnold Mordkin, the Aspen-based lead prosecutor in the Howell case, said Tuesday he plans to address the matter at her next court appearance.
“I will bring it to the judge’s attention,” Mordkin said.
Mordkin said it’s “always difficult for the court to control someone’s ability to earn money,” but added he wants to find out if Howell’s current accounting activity is “encompassed within the current order of the court.”
Howell did not return an e-mail message left through her website. Her attorney, Dan Shipp of Basalt, did not return telephone messages Tuesday.
Howell’s website was recently discovered by one of her Facebook friends, Kristina Richardson of Chicago. Richardson said Howell posted a link to the website on Facebook, an online social media site. Richardson said she checked the website Sunday, and it noted Howell’s services included payroll, bank reconciliations, balance sheet preparation, financial audits and filing tax reports, among other offerings.
On Monday, that type of information had been removed from the website, Richardson said.
Howell has yet to be charged. Documents introduced by District Attorney Martin Beeson and Deputy District Attorney Richard Nedlin indicate she faces 11 class-three felony counts of felony theft of more than $20,000; four class-four counts of theft between $1,000 and $20,000; 11 class-three felony counts of computer crime theft; and two class-four felony counts of computer crime. She also faces one class-two misdemeanor of theft of less than $500.
The most punitive charges, the class-three felony counts, carry penalties of four to 12 years in prison, and fines ranging from $3,000 to $750,000.
At her advisement hearing in August, in Aspen, Shipp told the judge that she already has paid $107,000 in restitution, and “other assets need to be liquidated.”
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