Embezzlement trial begins
December 13, 2005
Accused embezzler Donna Lynn Matthews was in court Monday for the first day of her jury trail. Matthews, 47, formerly of New Castle, is accused of stealing $10,000 from the Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 215 in Glenwood Springs.
She was arrested on April 27 in Las Vegas. Matthews is charged with two counts of theft of between $500 and $15,000.
According to police reports filed after her arrest, Matthews was a bookkeeper for the Eagles lodge between June 1, 2003, and March 31, 2004. During that time, she allegedly pocketed part of the money garnered from bar receipts and club dues, and falsified bank deposits.
When an Eagles employee’s paycheck bounced and unpaid bills mounted, a former trustee of the club was called in to review Matthew’s accounts. He looked into the lodge’s finances and found a pattern of deposits that didn’t match its records.
“The trustees brought in Ron Chase to unravel what Donna Matthews created,” said Deputy District Attorney Scott Turner, to members of the jury in opening statements Monday.
Presiding over the trial is retired Judge Charles Buss from Mesa County’s 21st Judicial District. Buss was called in because the Garfield County District Court judges had scheduling conflicts.
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Turner said Chase found the accounts in disarray and the club owing between $6,000 and $7,000 in overdue bills, including $900 to the city electric department. The electric department had posted a note on the club’s door threatening to shut off its electricity unless the $900 bill was paid.
Matthews received the club’s weekly income in cash and checks at weekly meetings of the club’s trustees when income was counted and given to Matthews to make a bank deposit.
“It was her sole duty to put it in the bank. It never got there,” Turner said.
Members of the club “have their own version of events,” said Matthews’ attorney Chip McCrory. In the upcoming trial, he told the jury, “You will hear the rest of the story.”
Matthews, he said, was a long-standing member of the Eagles and president of the women’s auxiliary, and was asked to take over the club’s accounts, which she did for very low pay.
The accounts, McCrory said, were not in good shape even before she took over. In addition, the club’s finances were also hurting due primarily to its restaurant, which was running at a loss.
Matthews tried to warn the trustees about the financial situation, he said. She also tried to cover the club’s bills, including paychecks and vendors’ bills, paying in cash from the club’s bar and dues receipts.
“Sloppy management practices … caused the situation,” he said.
The trial is expected to take at least three days.