Former Aspen bank employee finally sentenced

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

A former bank employee who stole tens of thousands of dollars from customers’ accounts and then left the state before she was to be sentenced will spend the next 31/2 years in a halfway house, a judge said Monday.

Jessica Sorensen will need to use that time in a Community Corrections program to pay back more than $66,000 in restitution, which includes the original $59,000 she stole from bank customers plus court costs and fines, said District Judge Chris Seldin.

Sorensen apologized for her actions and pleaded for leniency, saying she was a “distrustful” and “despicable” person when she committed the crimes but has since gotten a grip on addiction and mental-health issues that fueled her crimes.

“I regret my actions and am remorseful that I acted as I did,” Sorensen said, adding that her primary goal is to pay back the money she owes. “I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Sorensen was first arrested by Aspen police in August 2013 after an investigation found she stole the money from accounts at the Aspen branch of the Grand Junction Federal Credit Union between September 2012 and July 2013.

Sorensen withdrew money from four customers’ accounts, including former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, by forging signatures or changing victims’ addresses so they would not receive statements showing her withdrawals, police said at the time. At times, she would replace the money with an unauthorized personal loan to herself, police said.

Sorensen pleaded guilty in May 2014 to three counts of felony theft in the case and, two months later, was sentenced to four years of supervised probation plus 60 days in the Pitkin County Jail. She was allowed to work during the day and report back to the jail at night during the jail sentence.

However, as she neared the end of that 60-day sentence, a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy at the jail discovered vodka in her water bottle, which violated jail rules and conditions of her probation. She was set to be re-sentenced in January 2015 but didn’t show up for court.

Seldin said Monday that Sorensen didn’t communicate with court personnel for the next year after that, until she was arrested in California and brought back to Aspen.

Molly Owens, Sorensen’s public defender, said Monday that her client was in California in rehabilitation focusing on treating her addiction and mental-health issues. Sorensen grew up in an abusive home and suffered “a deep and complex history of trauma,” Owens said.

Owens urged Seldin to sentence Sorensen to probation.

While the judge acknowledged Sorensen’s “horrific” personal history, he said he was bothered by the “degree of calculation” and premeditation she showed in stealing the money from people’s bank accounts. And even though insurance paid back the credit-union victims, “that doesn’t settle things,” Seldin said.