Former Garfield County employee pleads guilty in property tax payment case
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A Rifle woman accused of stealing more than $9,000 in property tax payments from county residents pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Vanessa Lynn Lujan, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of public property, a felony, and two misdemeanor counts of theft as part of a plea deal offered by prosecutors, according to a Garfield County Court Clerk official. She is due for sentencing in April.
Lujan is a former employee of the Garfield County Treasurer’s Office. She was arrested in October on suspicion of stealing $9,375 through her position in the office, according to police reports.
Garfield County Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain reported to authorities that Lujan took $5,166 in property tax payments from the Treasurer’s Office, and another $4,209 in cash, which she was to deposit in a bank account for the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, in July.
An arrest affidavit indicated 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, but Lujan could not explain where the money had gone. Lujan voluntarily resigned her position that same day.
The incident was reported to authorities in August, and an arrest warrant was issued for Lujan in September. Lujan eventually turned herself in to authorities in October.
The Treasurer’s Office estimated that no more than 20 property owners were affected by the theft.
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At the onset of a special legislative session designed to address the extraordinary and ever-worsening devastation wrought by COVID-19 in Colorado, many elected Republicans chose to go maskless Monday inside the Capitol.