Former Hy-Way Feed employee pleads guilty to stealing from store
A woman charged with stealing money from her employer for nine months starting in 2018 pleaded guilty to felony theft, and paid nearly $50,000 in restitution.
Dolores West-Burris, 21, appeared in court in Glenwood Springs Thursday, and was sentenced to one year probation after reimbursing money taken from Hy-Way Feed and Ranch Supply.
“I don’t think this will require any significant penalty,” Walter Brown, West-Burris’ attorney said in court.
West-Burris also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment, and spent one day in jail after turning herself in on April 2. The deferred sentence on the felony theft charge could carry prison time if West-Burris fails to complete probation or violates the conditions.
The amount reimbursed was nearly $15,000. That “can have significant business effects on commerce in this valley,” 9th District deputy prosecutor Graham Jackson said.
According to court documents, the owner of Hy-Way Feed would sometimes allow employees to withdraw money from the register and pay it back after they received a paycheck. West-Burris withdrew large sums, sometimes obscuring the payments as fake returns, the court documents alleged.
The total amount embezzled through small transactions and withdrawals amounted to more than $20,000, according to court documents. Some of that had been repaid or garnished from wages.
“She needs to learn to earn her income honorably, and within the law,” Jackson said. Prosecutors did not ask that West-Burris receive a jail sentence.
“I don’t know that jail time is necessary here. She’s made restitution,” Jackson said.
Jackson also said West-Burris’ father, Levy Burris, an employee of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department, had been involved in resolving the case.
“Both Mr. Brown and her father, Mr. Burris, have been working hard on her behalf,” Jackson said.
Brown added that the day spent in jail was significant to West-Burris and could impact her future career goals. Gathering the funds for restitution was also difficult, according to Brown. “It was a chore to get it together,” he said.
West-Burris declined to give a statement at the hearing.
According to court documents, Hy-Way Feed owner John “Brock” Hedberg started looking into West-Burris’ receipts after noticing Jan. 9 that the till drawer was $150 short after the end of the day.
Hedberg told investigators that he didn’t find the reason the drawer was short, but he 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.
As the investigation proceeded, Hedberg and law enforcement detected more evidence that West-Burris had embezzled from the store, and gave her a chance to repay before the charges were filed.
“She was working to pay this back before the charges, but that didn’t happen,” Jackson said Thursday.
Hedberg told Garfield County Sheriff’s Office detectives in a statement that he still loved and respects West-Burris. “I want what is best for her and her family,” Hedberg wrote in a March 5 statement to investigators.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. The amount West-Burris paid in restitution was nearly $15,000, not $50,000.
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