Area woman pleads guilty to felony theft |

Area woman pleads guilty to felony theft

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

A Carbondale woman accused of stealing money from a customer of the insurance company where she worked in 2012 pleaded guilty to felony theft in Pitkin County District Court on Monday.

In addition, Karen Iuele, 40, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of forgery of checks or commercial instruments. District Judge Gail Nichols accepted the two guilty pleas and set sentencing for April 21.

Iuele’s admissions of guilt were part of a plea arrangement with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, according to discussions between Nichols, Iuele, prosecutor Andrea Bryan and public defender Sara Steele during Monday’s court hearing. Nichols reminded Iuele that despite the guilty pleas, there is no deal related to sentencing. Iuele could receive four to 12 years in state prison.

Iuele was working as an administrator for an Aspen company, Michael Sailor Insurance, when Aspen police in late September 2012 began investigating a woman’s claims that money she gave to Iuele never reached her insurer.

According to a police report, Iuele asked for and received money in cash and cashier’s checks between June 14 and Sept. 10 of that year. She was arrested on Oct. 1. In all, the woman allegedly gave Iuele more than $6,000. Bryan said a restitution amount of $6,032 plus interest is stipulated in the plea arrangement.

A scheduled trial now will be canceled because of the guilty pleas. Nichols ordered Iuele to set an appointment for a pre-sentencing evaluation.

In other district-court business:

• Nichols agreed to a request by John Van Ness, one of two attorneys representing Aspen bartender Peter Nardi, who said that Nardi should no longer be required to provide the Pitkin County Jail with daily breath samples used to test for alcohol use. In granting the change in bond conditions, Nichols told Nardi to “make sure to stay sober” and not to disappoint her. Nardi was arrested in April of last year on an allegation of sexual assault and was subsequently arrested twice after Aspen police investigated claims that he violated bond conditions by consuming alcohol in two local bars. He has maintained his innocence and faces a trial on the sexual-assault charge in early April. Nichols did not lift the alcohol-consumption restriction.

• Nichols denied Steele’s request to release Elizabeth Jaramillo-Dominguez on a personal-recognizance bond. Dominguez, 18, is accused of conspiring with another woman, Elsa Murillo-Gonzalez, 40, to cash forged checks belonging to Gonzalez’ former employer. Police said they raised $6,000 in a November check-cashing spree. Both are currently in the Pitkin County Jail; bond for Gonzalez recently was raised to $25,000 while Dominguez is being held under $2,500 bond. Bryan argued that Dominguez should not be released on a PR bond because she was arrested on suspicion of stealing items from the Thrift Store of Aspen just three weeks after obtaining release from the jail on a no-cost bond in mid-December. Steele said that Dominguez wants to remain in the Roaring Fork Valley to find a job and noted that the prosecutor has made an offer to Dominguez that involves a probation sentence.