Charges filed in latest Aspen embezzlement
A former partner in the Aspen home furnishings boutique Chequers was arrested in Texas Dec. 13 on four felony theft charges related to an embezzlement scheme he allegedly carried out at the store.
James Francis Lynn, 63, presently of Tyler, Texas, now faces criminal charges for a plot that was first exposed in civil proceedings in Pitkin County District Court in September 1997.
The criminal prosecution of Lynn is the latest in an ever-growing list of embezzlements to impact upper Roaring Fork Valley businesses. Other recent schemes have hit Boogie’s Diner, the Aspen Polo Store, Ozzie’s Shoes, Cornerstone Investments and Clark’s Market, among others.
In May 1998, Judge Thomas Ossola ruled against Lynn, and his wife Molly, in a civil suit brought by Becky and Michael Dumeresque. The two couples had been equal partners in Chequers since 1995.
Ossola’s ruling – based on a recommendation from former Chief Justice of the State of Colorado Luis Rovira, who served as arbitrator in the case – found merit in the Dumeresques’ assertions that James Lynn embezzled some $100,000 from the store in 1996 and 1997. The judge ordered the Lynns to pay the Dumeresques approximately $1.4 million, for economic and non-economic losses related to the alleged scheme, according to local attorney Matthew Ferguson, who represented the Dumereques.
On Dec. 6, District Judge J.E. DeVilbiss issued a warrant for James Lynn’s arrest in connection with the criminal aspects of the Chequers embezzlement, based largely on evidence compiled by Ferguson in the civil matter, according to court documents.
Seven days later, Lynn was arrested on the warrant in Smith County, Texas. He posted a $25,000 bond and was released from custody the same day, according to court documents.
On either Jan. 3 or Jan. 10, Lynn must make his first appearance in Pitkin County’s 9th Judicial District Court related to the two Class 4 felony “theft series” and two Class 3 felony “theft series” allegations lodged against him, court officials said yesterday.
According to information included in Lynn’s arrest warrant, filed by Aspen Police Department Detective Glenn Schaffer, James and Molly Lynn formed a corporation with Becky Dumeresque to operate Chequers as equal partners in 1995.
In the next year and a half, the Lynns proceeded to open four new bank accounts, according to Schaffer’s report, where at least 98 checks totaling $205,608.97 made out to “Chequers” were allegedly directed from January 1996 through December 1997.
Because the Lynns were entitled to half of all Chequers’ proceeds, the money partly belonged to them, though according to Schaffer’s report, neither James nor Molly Lynn ever made Dumeresque privy to the transactions. James Lynn claimed a red accounting book – which detailed all the transactions, and had been authorized by Dumeresque – “disappeared from my office,” Schaffer’s report said.
Dumeresque said in a interview that Mark Wagner, a former Chequers employee, quit his job because “he was uncomfortable taking things out of the deposit bag,” namely “the larger checks,” based on James Lynn’s instruction, Schaffer’s report said.
The Dumeresques discovered the scheme in mid-1998, and immediately reported the Lynns to police and began the civil proceedings against the couple, Ferguson said.
“We sued for accounting anomalies and we prevailed, and now the criminal justice system needs to work its way through,” Ferguson said.
Molly Lynn has not been arrested in connection with the embezzlement. Schaffer was not available for comment yesterday regarding whether any charges against her might follow.
Of the $1.4 million judgment the Dumeresques were awarded, Ferguson said, “we’ve only collected a very small portion of the money. A fifteenth or a tenth.”
Following Judge Ossola’s judgment, the Lynns’ assets and belongings were frozen; the sum that the Dumeresques have collected was derived from the liquidation of those possessions in a “sheriff’s sale,” Ferguson said.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.