Police: Ex-employee pocketed Snowmass parking fines
The Aspen Times
A woman who worked for the Snowmass Village Police Department surrendered to authorities Friday on allegations that she stole more than $1,200 in cash payments intended as parking-ticket fines.
Marshana Cooley, 43, was taken into custody after 1 p.m. when she turned herself in to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. She made a brief appearance before Pitkin County District Court Judge Gail Nichols, who released the defendant on a $5,000 personal-recognizance bond. Glenwood Springs defense attorney Gregory Greer, who appeared at the hearing via teleconference, waived advisement for Cooley. She faces a Class 4 felony of computer crime, along with one misdemeanor charge of theft. Her next court appearance is set for Aug. 18, when prosecutors are scheduled to file formal charges.
Cooley sat quietly during the hearing and said nothing about the pending counts.
In a prepared statement, Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson said: “Snowmass Village police always strive to be excellent stewards of taxpayer funds and have a great track record of delivering public-safety services in a manner that is in sync with community values. We will continue to do so, and I’m extremely confident with the team we have in place. We will be evaluating our policies and processes to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Snowmass police became suspicious of Cooley in June. That’s when a new employee took over Cooley’s job in the front office of the department and began processing payments for parking tickets. As the employee organized older parking-ticket files handled by Cooley, she noticed that Cooley had altered some of the cash payments in the department’s computer program, according to an arrest-warrant affidavit written by Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office investigator Brad Gibson.
The new employee discovered that Cooley had entered smaller amounts into the computer system than were written on the parking tickets, amounting to a discrepancy of $1,219, the affidavit says. Cooley essentially would document cash denominations in the computer system for “less than the real cash accepted for a ticket, and then take the balance for herself,” the affidavit says.
Snowmass police launched their own investigation into the matter during the week of June 13, and nearly a month later, on July 12, Officer Brady Jax informed Cooley she was suspected of embezzling cash payments. The two spoke for approximately 50 minutes, the affidavit says.
“Throughout the interview Cooley came up with numerous reasons as to why the money was missing from the parking tickets,” the affidavit says. “Several times during the interview Cooley seemed to not understand the true problem and denied stealing, losing, taking, or misappropriating the missing cash.”
About 10 minutes after the interview ended, Cooley called Jax to confess, the affidavit says.
“Cooley took the money because she needed some cash for her medical bills, to put gas in her vehicle, other miscellaneous bills, and that she was not making enough money at the Police Department to pay her bills,” the affidavit says.
Cooley worked at the Snowmass Village Police Department from March 20, 2013, through May 30 this year, the department said. She had no criminal record prior to Friday’s arrest, according to prosecutor Andrea Bryan.
“I’m pleased that this matter has been dealt with efficiently and effectively, and applaud my team for identifying the issue, moving through the right channels and following protocol,” Olson said. “Additionally, I commend the swift action of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Pitkin County District Court.”
The Snowmass Village Housing Department is cracking down on its rental compliance for workforce housing in this year’s lease renewal cycle.