Former land trust bookkeeper charged with embezzlement
A former bookkeeper for a respected land conservancy in the Roaring Fork Valley was arrested last week on five felony charges related to allegations that she embezzled from the organization.
Carman T. Andrews, 34, of rural Garfield County, is accused of using her position as bookkeeper of Aspen Valley Land Trust to steal from the organization, according to Carbondale police. A source familiar with the investigation said Andrews is accused of embezzling an amount greater than $50,000.
She was arrested by Carbondale police May 19 for theft, unauthorized use of a financial transaction device, criminal possession of a financial transaction device, forgery and criminal impersonation.
Andrews was the target of a lengthy investigation that is still ongoing, said Carbondale Police Sgt. Greg Knott.
AVLT acquires land and conservation easements, which in turn prohibit development throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and, recently, in the Colorado River Valley. It’s the oldest and one of the largest conservancies in Colorado.
It’s participated in several high-profile projects around Aspen, such as brokering deals that helped keep the Independence ghost town in public hands, as well as the Ryan parcel near Ashcroft.
The organization has high credibility with ranchers and landowners who are conservation minded, as well as donors with deep pockets.
AVLT fired off a letter to contributors this week informing them of the embezzlement case and asking them to keep faith in the organization.
“We didn’t want anyone to think we were hiding anything,” said Martha Cochran, executive director of AVLT. “It’s a small valley and word gets around.”
Cochran said AVLT discovered the alleged embezzlement on April 15. It appears activities were taking place “for about a year, in varying degrees of severity,” said Cochran.
She alleged that a fake bank account was created, checks were forged and unauthorized electronic transfers were made. Cochran claimed that a stamp of her signature was created without her knowledge.
No other employees have been implicated. Andrews couldn’t be reached for comment. She bonded out of jail on May 19; a jailer said the amount of bond was unavailable.
Cochran said AVLT has changed its procedures to avoid a repeat of the actions. Paying of the bills and bookkeeping have been “outsourced,” for example.
Cochran’s letter to contributors indicated much of the lost money can be regained. “AVLT has some fraud insurance and many of the charges will be reimbursed by financial institutions that accepted fraudulent documents,” the letter stated.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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