Farris family ranch embezzlement trials set for July
A 9th Judicial District judge on Thursday set trial for a series of embezzlement cases involving a family accused of stealing more than $1 million from a ranch they managed.
Judge Denise Lynch cited the complexity of the case, which involves thousands of pages of documents, and scheduling difficulties as reasons for setting the possible trial date at the end of July. She said setting the court date almost two months into the future would allow counsel to prepare a resolution or plea deal, should that come about.
The case also involves four separate defendants and four separate attorneys, and a deputy DA requested all the cases remain scheduled together.
Charla, Zane, Dustin and Tyler Farris are all scheduled to reappear in front of Judge Lynch on July 26 at 8:15 a.m.
Charla and Zane Farris, parents of Tyler and Dustin Farris, both stand accused of miscoding and misspending company checks while they managed Bear Wallow Ranch.
Fran and Joe Rogers, owners of the ranch, accuse the family of stealing and reselling merchandise for their own personal gain, and paying themselves and their family additional, unauthorized salaries.
Joe Rogers, chairman of Waffle House Inc., and his wife Fran Rogers told investigators they noticed the alleged theft when Charla, the bookkeeper at the time, had asked for more money than she should have needed.
Joe Rogers maintains that he had just deposited $50,000 into the company’s account, which should have been enough to manage the ranch, and that the incident led him and his wife to review old checks and other expenses that Charla authorized.
This is where they say they generated abundant proof of theft.
The Rogerses testified briefly at Charla’s preliminary hearing in early May, and both said that she would often record an expense in the company’s books and then write a check to an unauthorized, unknown vendor for a different amount.
They said, although they were able to verify thousands of fraudulent checks during the investigation, they believe there is even more fraud since a host of records went missing when the Farrises were terminated from the ranch.
“Most of the telling receipts were not in the file,” Fran Rogers said at Charla Farris’ preliminary hearing.
Charla Farris’ attorney, David Baller, restated in court that the lead investigator, Megan Alstatt, relied solely on Fran Rogers’ documents for investigation and hadn’t interviewed the vendors who allegedly received the fraudulent payments herself.
Kathy Goudy, who represents Zane Farris, called a forensics-certified public accountant to the stand during Zane’s preliminary hearing, and the accountant said during her testimony that she hadn’t found any evidence of widespread theft in the company’s expense records.
Fran Rogers said in court that it should have been common sense to avoid miscoding checks and stealing from the property. Since she’s replaced Charla Farris as the ranch bookkeeper, she said she has cut the ranch’s payroll in half, bringing the staff from nine to two employees.
All four Farrises remain free on bond in the meantime.
They are each charged with two counts of theft, 10 counts of identity theft, and five counts of taxation/tax evasion, according to the court.
Their two adult sons, Tyler and Dustin Farris, also face felony theft charges stemming from what prosecutors have described as a family effort. They, too, are being tried separately.
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