Prosecutors want Bear Wallow embezzlement cases enjoined | AspenTimes.com

Prosecutors want Bear Wallow embezzlement cases enjoined

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Embezzlement charges against a husband and wife and their two sons who formerly managed the Bear Wallow Ranch near New Castle should be combined into a single trial, says the 9th District Attorney's Office.

However, attorneys for the individual members of the Farris family are prepared to argue otherwise at an Oct. 26 hearing in Glenwood Springs before District Judge Denise Lynch to determine whether to combine the cases or try them separately.

"The people have filed a motion to consolidate the cases for one trial," Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollers said following a court hearing on Thursday when the October date for oral arguments was set.

"We expect that all four of the attorneys (individually representing Zane and Charla Farris and their sons Tyler and Dustin) will object to that course of action," Sollars said.

"A lot of it is just for the convenience factor," he said. "Courts do have the discretion to join cases, and it's usually done for judicial economy."

Defense attorney Kathy Goudy, who represents Zane Farris, indicated after the Thursday scheduling hearing that the request by the DA's Office will be "hotly contested."

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The Farris family stands accused of stealing more than $1 million from the Bear Wallow Ranch, which is owned by Waffle House, Inc. chairman Joe Rogers and his wife, Fran Rogers.

The cases of Zane and Charla Farris had been set to go to trial this summer following a preliminary hearing in May, but questions were raised by the prosecution as to whether they should be tried separately or together for their alleged roles.

The Farrises stand accused of miscoding and misspending company checks while they managed the ranch for the past several years. The Rogers have accused the family of stealing and reselling merchandise for their own personal gain, and paying themselves and their family additional, unauthorized salaries.

Fran Rogers told investigators when the allegations arose that they noticed that Charla, the bookkeeper at the time, had asked for more money than she should have needed to take care of routine ranch operations.

Joe Rogers testified at the May hearing, saying he had just deposited $50,000 into the company's account, which he said should have been enough to manage the ranch. When Charla Farris asked for additional money, it prompted him and his wife to review old checks and other expenses that they turned over to investigators.

During the preliminary hearing, Judge Lynch also cited the complexity of the case, which involves thousands of pages of documents, and scheduling difficulties associated with the four separate cases.

The afternoon of Oct. 26 has been set aside to hearing arguments regarding the motion to join the cases. Lynch said Thursday she would take the case under advisement and issue a written order at some time afterward.