Charges mount against chronic embezzler
September 19, 2011
ASPEN – A Gypsum woman with a history of embezzlement cases dating back nearly two decades faces a new charge of theft from an Aspen homeowners association.
Brenda Elaine Dobbs, 62, waived advisement Monday of one felony charge connected to allegations that she used an ATM card to bilk $22,165 from the Mountain View Homeowners Association’s business account while she worked as its bookkeeper. She appeared in Pitkin County District Court with her public defender, Sara Steele.
The felony charge, theft of $20,000 or more, was filed Sept. 9 by Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin.
Dobbs has been in custody since Aug. 16, when Pitkin County authorities arrested her on a warrant out of Eagle County. There, she was wanted on criminal charges of theft, fraud and habitual criminal activity.
The arrest came after Aspen police investigator Ian MacAyeal received a tip about a week earlier that she had stolen money from the HOA. MacAyeal later learned that Dobbs was living in Snowmass Village and was wanted in Eagle County, prompting him to alert local law-enforcement agencies.
After her arrest, Dobbs was transferred to the Eagle County Jail. MacAyeal continued his probe into Dobbs, which is detailed in an application for her arrest for the HOA embezzlement case.
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The warrant application says Dobbs was hired to be the HOA’s bookkeeper on May 1, and given permission to use the ATM so she could pay its bills. The account had a balance of $28,441 at the time of her hiring.
On Aug. 8, the HOA’s treasurer froze the account after he noticed that its funds were nearly depleted. The treasurer then contacted MacAyeal and showed him the bank statements that had roused his concern.
The statements revealed that Dobbs, from May 1 through Aug. 8, used the ATM to ring up charges of $8,900 from the Alpine Bank ATM at the Aspen Business Center, $8,714 from the Community Bank cash machine in Aspen, $607.50 from the Wal-Mart ATM in Glenwood Springs, $308 from the ATM at Clark’s Market in Aspen, $2,030 from the Vectra Bank money machine in Snowmass Village, and another $1,627.15 in miscellaneous business and phone orders.
MacAyeal also gathered surveillance images of several of the ATM withdrawals, and had Dobbs’ employer at the time, Aspen attorney Jeremy Bernstein, confirm that it was Dobbs who was collecting the cash. Dobbs is not suspected of stealing money from Bernstein’s law practice.
Dobbs’ past embezzlement activities date back to early last decade. In October 2002, according to published reports, after her third embezzlement conviction, an Eagle County judge sentenced Dobbs to five years in prison and ordered her to pay $530,000 to the victim, NSN Network Services in Gypsum.
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 states. “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’ unauthorized personal telephone usage.”
Public records show that Dobbs has been involved in at least nine criminal cases in Colorado dating to 1992. The charges revolve around incidents of fraud, forgery and theft, data shows.