Probation for third Garfield County clerk’s office embezzler

Ryan Summerlin

Alicia Macias, the third former Garfield County clerk’s office employee convicted of embezzlement from that office, on Thursday avoided jail time with a 10-year supervised probation sentence.

In April, Macias pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement of public property.

“She was not the first one, but hopefully the last one,” said Deputy District Attorney Sarah Nordgaard. The first case came in 2012, when Brenda Caywood was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $16,000 from the office. A couple years later, Robin McMillan was accused of stealing more than $440,000 and was sentenced to prison after a plea deal.

In addition to probation, Macias will have to pay restitution of $16,178, plus interest accrued on that sum.

If she does not comply with the payment plan of at least $125 per month, she would face a violation of probation and resentencing that could include jail or prison time. “There is a hammer hanging over your head, ma’am,” said Judge John Neiley.

The prejudgment interest, the amount that spans from the commission of the crime until sentencing, came to $8,332. Interest will continue to accrue until Macias pays off the entire amount. Interest on restitution in criminal cases is 8 percent per year. Her restitution payment plan stipulated by the plea agreement requires that she pay at least $125 per month. She will also have to complete 80 hours of public service and undergo a mental health evaluation.

Both the prosecution and Public Defender Katie Wentzel requested that Macias be sentenced to probation rather than jail time, but Wentzel argued to have the last six years be unsupervised probation, to ease the cost of probation and make it more likely that Macias would successfully pay off restitution.

Handing down the sentence, District Judge John Neiley added that the probation office might take the step Wentzel was seeking if Macias successfully completes supervised probation for a number of years.

“I’m really, really sorry I made that mistake. I know I did wrong, and I’m very embarrassed,” Macias told the judge. She also asked that she be spared jail time in the interest of her mother, for whom she is a caregiver.

As public employees and stewards of the public trust, it’s always distressing when someone in such a position is found to have violated that trust, said Neiley, noting the clerk’s office employees present for the sentencing. The judge said he agreed with the recommendation of the probation department and the sentence stipulated by the plea agreement. Neiley said he didn’t believe a jail sentence would serve a meaningful purpose.

Her lack of a criminal record, her age and her family history played in her favor for sentencing.

However, if she does not comply with this payment plan, she would face a violation of probation and resentencing that could include jail or prison time. “There is a hammer hanging over your head, ma’am,” said the judge.

Both Nordgaard and Wentzel said Macias’s offense was more comparable to the first case of embezzlement out of the clerk’s office, not the more than $400,000 from the McMillan case.

Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico said she also supported the plea agreement, even through the objections of some of her staff who wanted to see a stiffer punishment for Macias.

Alberico said her staff had taken the brunt of the injustice as a result of this crime, taking undeserved public scrutiny over what another employee had done. New policies and safeguards the office had to establish treat employees like they’re thieves until their proven trustworthy, she said.

The purpose of this sentence is to make the county whole, said Nordgaard.

“This is hard for me, to be before the court for the third time,” Alberico told the judge. This is a crime that took “a lot of planning and scheming” to keep it concealed, she said.

Macias was someone she had considered to have high integrity, said Alberico. And the clerk could not understand why Macias would continue stealing from the office after the first two embezzlement cases, knowing that the office would prosecute.

Kathi Rozzi, a former clerk’s office employee who recently retired, disagreed with her former boss and the prosecution. She asked the judge to sentence Macias to jail time. She called the plea deal a “gift” for Macias, who hasn’t spent any time in jail as a result of the offense.

After the hearing Alberico said there are no more embezzlement investigations in her office, and that there won’t be.

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