Silt ranch supply store employee accused of stealing from business
A former employee of the Hy-Way Feed and Ranch Supply in Silt is being charged with theft for allegedly stealing more than $20,000 over several months last year.
Dolores West-Burris, 21, turned herself in to authorities April 2 on theft charges for the alleged scheme, which involved refunding items never purchased to her own credit card, creating “accounts receivable” tabs with the company, and cashing out from the register in other people’s names, according to an arrest affidavit.
West-Burris told investigators she was in a relationship with a man she was living with and who influenced her to pay his bills, according to court records.
Store owner John “Brock” Hedberg started digging into West-Burris’ receipts after noticing Jan. 9 that the till drawer was $150 short after the end of the day.
Hedberg stated that he didn’t find the reason the drawer was short, but did find a suspicious refund of $1,834 for a 1,700-gallon septic tank return. It was suspicious because Hy-Way didn’t stock that item.
The credit card company gave him West-Burris’ name as the holder of the card that received the funds.
When confronted, she “did not deny she put this return on her card,” Hedberg told police.
Further investigation by Hedberg and Garfield County Sheriff’s Office detective Brian Sutton indicated the amount West-Burris allegedly took from Hy-Way totaled $20,664.
Most of that total, according to the investigation report filed with the arrest affidavit, involved refunds for returned items that were never purchased. The refunds showed up on two credit cards, as well as $1,847 in refunds in cash made under West-Burris’ employee login, and nearly $700 in items returned for cash in other employees’ names.
She also allegedly cashed out $800 in her name, and another $800 under the names of other employees, according to the affidavit.
West-Burris had created an “accounts receivable” tab for herself in August, which are reserved for customers. Hedberg confronted her about that in October, according to his statement, and had set up a way for her to repay that money, totaling more than $1,500.
West-Burris reportedly made some payments, but when Hedberg began investigating the suspicious returns, the balance was around $1,200.
After West-Burris was fired in January, Hedberg communicated with her and attempted to enter a private contract to have the funds returned. It’s unclear from the affidavit why the private arrangement was never reached.
Hedberg told investigators in a statement that he still loves and respects West-Burris. “I want what is best for her and her family,” Hedberg wrote in a March 5 statement to the sheriffs.
In late March, a lawyer for West-Burris contacted the investigator to discuss the case. The investigator made it clear that he had probable cause to file charges, according to the detective’s affidavit.
The lawyer, Walter Brown, said West-Burris was very scared, as was her stepfather, Levy Burris — emergency operations sergeant with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and former Silt police chief — who “did not want Dolores to have a criminal record.”
In a letter to investigators delivered by Levy Burris, his stepdaughter declined to be interviewed by detectives and asked when she should turn herself in.
West-Burris wrote in her letter that she was “sick that things happened as they did. I now understand that I was influenced by the man I was living with and should not have paid his bills to have him stay with me and in our relationship. He is gone now, and I deeply regret my dependency on him causing problems for (Hedberg) and his family.”
She also indicated she had apologized to Hedberg and his family, and “only wish to make further amends and pay the debt that is owed.”
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