Former Garfield County employee is charged with embezzlement
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A former Garfield County Treasurer’s Office employee has been arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $12,000 in property tax payments through the office.
Vanessa Lynn Lujan, 30, of Rifle was arrested early Friday morning and booked in the Garfield County Jail on felony theft charges. Lujan posted a $10,000 bond Friday afternoon.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Lujan allegedly stole $8,395.92 from taxpayers who had dropped off property tax payments at the office, and another $4,209.88 in cash, which she was supposed to deposit for the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
The affidavit states that on July 17, Lujan was supposed to deposit $46,973.58 at a local bank. However, the affidavit states, “It appeared that only the checks arrived in the amount of $42,763.70,” leaving the $4,209.88 unaccounted for.
The missing deposit from the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office was discovered on July 27, by Deputy Chief Treasurer and Public Trustee Jean Richardson while performing a balance check of their bank accounts. Richardson reported the theft to Glenwood Springs Police on Aug. 4.
According to the affidavit, Richardson asked Lujan about the missing deposit when it was discovered and determined that Lujan had, in fact, taken the deposit to the bank. However, when asked about the missing cash, Lujan could not explain what happened, the affidavit stated.
Lujan voluntarily resigned her position on July 27, after Richardson asked her to explain where the money was, the affidavit stated.
Richardson told investigators also that one week before she discovered the missing deposit that a customer claimed that they had received a delinquent tax notice, but the customer told Richardson that they had paid their taxes in full. The customer provided a receipt of payment that was stamped and initialed “VL”, the affidavit stated.
Richardson told investigators that she checked, but according to Treasurer’s Office records the customer’s payment had not shown up as received.
Shortly after Richardson reported the first theft from the Clerk’s office, the affidavit states that she was contacted by “several other taxpayers” claiming that they, too, had received delinquent notices after having paid their property taxes.
After checking some of the claims, several of the cash deposits that were supposedly received were reported to have been received by Lujan, the report stated.
The affidavit stated that Richardson searched Lujan’s desk on July 29, where she found a Xerox copy of a check with the account and routing numbers blanked out. According to Richardson, the affidavit stated, the check should have been returned to the property owner because their property taxes had been paid by their mortgage company.
The same day, the affidavit stated, Lujan reportedly called and left a message with an employee at the Treasurer’s Office “asking her to remove these copies of checks from her desk so that the Treasurer’s Office did not think she was stealing anything.”
Investigators reported that they had contacted several taxpayers who had all described Lujan as the woman who helped them when they came in to pay their taxes. However, at least two people reportedly described a blond woman in the Treasurer’s office who had helped them. Lujan has brown hair.
Garfield County Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain confirmed for investigators that Lujan was working in the office on specific days when the cash deposits were determined missing. The dates of payments missing are listed between Feb. 25 and July 31, according to the report.
According to Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson, police don’t have an exact number of people who were affected by the thefts. And, he said, there could be more out there.
“It’s one of those things where more could trickle in,” Wilson said. “It could be some time before we know exactly how many were affected.”
Phone calls seeking comment from Chamberlain were not returned Friday.
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