Former city of Aspen official at Red Brick charged with four felonies
The former director of a city of Aspen nonprofit agency allegedly employed a variety of schemes to steal nearly $160,000 of taxpayer money between 2015 and 2017, according to court documents filed this week.
Some of the money allegedly taken by Angie Callen, who served as executive director of the Red Brick Council for the Arts, went into a snowboard company she owned with her husband that a co-worker told investigators was losing money and “a total failure,” the documents state.
However, an arrest warrant affidavit filed Monday in Pitkin County District Court also details “extraordinary personal spending on food, hotels, airplane flights, fly-fishing trips and skiing excursions, including an unidentified $18,250 charge in Snowmass Village.”
Callen, 37, was charged with four felonies — theft, committing a computer crime, identity theft and embezzlement of public property — in the arrest warrant signed Monday by District Judge James Boyd.
She has not yet been arrested on the charges, and did not return a phone message Tuesday seeking comment.
Callen was fired in June 2017 after the Red Brick’s operations manager forwarded information to the president of the nonprofit’s board about the alleged theft, the affidavit states. The board president later told an investigator from the District Attorney’s Office that she confronted Callen about the allegations the next day.
“Callen immediately admitted to stealing the funds and was ‘remorseful and cried,’” the president told investigator Jeff Fain. “Callen told them that she had kept a list of everything that she had stolen and it totaled $114,000.
“She stated that when she had first written a check from the Red Brick accounts to her company Bomber for $10,000 that she intended to pay it back, but that never occurred.”
At one point in the investigation, a local lawyer approached Aspen City Attorney Jim True with an offer from Callen: $150,000 in exchange for dropping the criminal case, according to the affidavit. That local lawyer, Lawson Wills, declined to comment Tuesday on that offer or if he still represents Callen.
Callen allegedly embezzled $101,988 from one Red Brick-related bank account and another $57,301 from another, for a total of $159,289, according to the affidavit.
The scheme that allegedly netted Callen the most money involved an online small business loan company called Kabbage, the affidavit states. She applied twice to the company for loans for her company, Bomber Industries, which makes hard boot snowboarding equipment, but was denied both times.
Then she applied to Kabbage as “owner” of the Red Brick Center for the Arts and received four loans from the company in 2015, 2016 and 2017 for a total of $60,000, according to the affidavit. In all four cases, Kabbage deposited the loans into a Red Brick account and the money was transferred by check into Callen’s personal accounts.
In three of the four loans, Callen wrote herself checks in the amount of the loan before Kabbage even deposited the money, the affidavit states. In the case of one of the loans, the signature on the back of the check depositing the funds into a Bomber account “likely belongs to her husband James Callen,” according to an examination of the couple’s bank records noted in the affidavit.
No charges have been filed against James Callen.
The Kabbage loans were paid off on a monthly basis using funds from Red Brick accounts, according to the court documents. An outstanding balance of $19,424 remains on those loans, which were secured using Red Brick financial information.
Payroll advances were another source of Angie Callen’s alleged theft, according to the affidavit. For example, she was supposed to make $61,000 in 2015 but collected $71,500, while in 2016 she was due $65,000 in salary from the city but cashed $81,677 in paychecks. She overpaid herself by about $38,800, the affidavit states.
In fact, by the time she was terminated in June 2017, Callen had already paid herself $11,622 for future pay periods between Oct. 15 and Dec. 31, 2017, according to the affidavit.
Finally, Callen opened a Red Brick credit card no one else at the nonprofit knew about. She used Red Brick accounts to make more than $35,000 in payments on that card. Expenses recorded on that card included nearly $25,000 in payments to Bomber Industries, the affidavit states.
The city of Aspen owns the Red Brick Center for the Arts at 100 Hallam St. and serves as landlord to several nonprofit organizations housed there. The Red Brick Council of the Arts had a management contract with the city to run the agency, though the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has taken over management of the building since Callen’s firing.
Callen and her husband declared bankruptcy in November, noting a $210,000 debt to a Silverthorne businessman who sold two divisions of Bomber to the Callens in 2015 and 2016 was a major factor in the filing.
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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.