Woman accused of credit-union theft pleads guilty
The Aspen Times
A Basalt woman pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of felony theft following an Aspen Police Department investigation revealing that she stole more than $40,000 from member accounts at the credit union where she worked.
Jessica Dawn Sorensen, 40, first appeared in Pitkin County District Court on Aug. 26. Police alleged that she was pilfering money for several months at her place of employment, the Aspen office of Grand Junction Federal Credit Union. At the time, authorities said former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland and current Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn were among her victims.
According to police, Sorensen would withdraw money from certain accounts, sometimes by forging the member’s signature and sometimes without a signature. Before mailing out the member’s balance statements, she would replace the money with an unauthorized personal loan she made to herself so that it would reflect the original balance.
She also would change the victims’ addresses so that they would not receive statements showing her many withdrawals, police said. In some instances, she changed their phone contact information. Later, she would transfer money from the accounts back to her personal use, the affidavit said.
In July, the president of the credit union became aware of a $50,000 unsecured loan Sorensen took out in June and confronted her, police said. An investigation followed.
Public defender Sara Steele said in court Monday that along with the guilty pleas, Sorensen has agreed to pay restitution of $40,000.
Sorensen admitted in court that the criminal activity occurred between October 2012 and July 2013. District Judge Gail Nichols ordered her to submit to a pre-sentencing evaluation by the local probation office.
Sorensen faces the possibility of two to six years in state prison on two charges and one to three years on a third charge. But Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan said her office is recommending a “community-based sentence” in which Sorensen could receive time in the Pitkin County Jail, or probation, or a combination of the two.
Sentencing was set for June 16.
In other District Court news:
• Matthew D. Long, 38, of Rifle, pleaded guilty to a single charge of felony theft between $5,000 and $20,000. Sentencing was set for June 16.
According to Aspen police, Long was a Snowmass Village worker who had access to jackets and other goods that belonged to Performance Ski. He tried to sell them over the Internet, police alleged when he was arrested in November.
Police received a theft report from an employee at Performance Ski on Nov. 3. The employee saw eight jackets for sale, by the same person, on the Internet retail outlet eBay that closely matched items missing from the shop’s inventory. The jackets matched the style, color and size of items that were to be delivered to Performance Ski’s location in Snowmass Village, authorities said.
Police used software to identify the owner of the eBay account, which led them to Long. A search of his house, coordinated with the Rifle Police Department, resulted in the discovery of numerous items that were new, in the box, with price tags still attached, police said.
After learning that Long also maintained a residence in Snowmass Village, Aspen police notified the Snowmass Village Police Department, which contacted Long. He was taken into custody as police searched his second home, finding jackets and other items that matched descriptions of Performance Ski’s merchandise, police said.
The District Attorney’s Office is recommending restitution of $36,000 and one year of probation in exchange for Long’s guilty plea. He admitted that he committed the acts between March 2013 and November 2013.
• Janette Juan, 50, pleaded not guilty to allegations that she stole travel miles from her former employer’s credit-card account and used them to rent cars, book flights and stay in expensive hotel rooms.
Juan, whose full name is listed in police records as Janette Juan Izquierdo, faces felony theft and fraud charges.
Juan was arrested by Aspen police on Dec. 16. She previously worked for Anthony Bell, owner of the Ipro Center on East Hyman Avenue, according to police statements in support of her arrest. She was a contract employee who handled marketing and training for Bell’s companies, police said.
After she was fired from her job in February 2013, Bell repossessed a company vehicle and attempted to repossess a company computer, police said. The computer contained log-in information for a travel-mileage program linked to a credit card used by Bell’s company.
Juan changed all of the owner information related to the program sometime between May 22 and June 12, according to police. She used the travel-program credits between late June and early October, police said. The estimated value of her unauthorized Internet purchases was nearly $6,800, authorities said.
During a December court appearance, Juan told Nichols that she has active lawsuits against Bell over wages that are owed to her. Nichols advised her not to speak in open court about her civil cases.
On Monday, Nichols scheduled a four-day jury trial to address the criminal charges. It was set for Oct. 14 to Oct. 17.
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Embezzlement and theft are recurring themes in the Aspen area crime annals, and the District Court judge who sent Derek Johnson to prison for six years Tuesday brought up three recent cases before passing down the sentence.