Former Garfield County employee charged with felony theft
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – In a brief appearance Wednesday in Garfield County District Court, Vanessa Lynn Lujan was formally charged with class 4 felony theft, and faces a possible prison sentence if found guilty.
Lujan, 30, of Rifle, a former employee of the Garfield County Treasurer’s Office, was arrested on suspicion of stealing more than $9,375 in property tax payments through her position in the office – not $12,000 as was previously reported.
Allegedly, Lujan took $5,166 in property tax payments from the treasurer’s office, and another $4,209 in cash, according to county Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain. The $4,209 was supposed to be deposited on July 17 for the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, according to police reports.
An arrest warrant affidavit stated that Deputy Chief Treasurer Jean Richardson discovered the missing payments on July 27, while performing a balance check of the Clerk and Recorder’s Office bank accounts.
Richardson then reportedly approached Lujan about the missing payments, and the affidavit stated that Lujan could not explain what happened to the money. Lujan voluntarily resigned her position the same day.
Richardson reported the incident to authorities on Aug. 4. An arrest warrant was issued for her arrest on Sept. 16. However, Police were unable to apprehend Lujan until Oct. 9. Lujan posted a $10,000 bond the same day.
The affidavit also stated that Richardson told investigators that one week before she discovered the missing deposit, a customer came into the office claiming that they had received a delinquent property tax notice, but they had a receipt showing payment. The receipt, Richardson said, was initialed “VL.”
Shortly after Richardson reported the first theft, the affidavit stated that she was contacted by “several other taxpayers” all claiming that they had received delinquent tax notices after having paid their taxes in full.
Chamberlain did not have an actual number of tax payers who were impacted but said it was “fewer than 20.”
If convicted of felony theft, Lujan faces between one and 12 years in prison, and up to $500,000 in fines.
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