Embezzlement is one of the most common white-collar crimes.
It is legally defined in the Department of Justice Archives citing the Supreme Court case Moore vs. the U.S. that originally set the precedent for punitive measures involved for those who engage in this illegal activity as a deterrent for future misdeeds.
I’m not sure if Julie Brown got the memo.
The Department of Justice adds, “Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it has lawfully come. It differs from larceny in that the original taking was lawful, or with the consent of the owner, while in larceny the felonious intent must have existed at the time of taking.”
Julie Brown was—was being the operative word here—the financial director for Durango, Colorado who misappropriated upwards of about $700,000 in taxpayer money. Not only did she steal taxpayer money but she also used a company credit card to fund a trip to Disney and a flight to Denver, Colorado that cost about $2,000 in charges.
However, the most egregious of fund mishandlings happened when she forged falsified checks to a dummy corporation called Animas Professionals. She took money directly from this “company” account to write herself personal checks. Interestingly enough this company was initially started and eventually dissolved in 2010 by Julie’s father-in-law Bill Brown.
Not exactly how I’d recommend starting a family business but nonetheless they persisted and were successful in funneling $492,422 from town coffers straight into Mrs. Brown’s personal bank account.
October 2012 to August 2019 authorities in this ongoing fraud investigation found 55 invoices written out to Animas Professionals adding up to about $500,000 in stolen funds. Even more shocking is investigators found evidence of over $200,000 of misallocated funds back in 2003 when she was just an accountant supervisor. This kind of behavior over such a prolonged period of time is telling that his woman should never manage finances again in her career.
Amber Blake, Durango’s interim City Manager, brought attention to this fraudulent activity in 2019 after her finance staff brought up major discrepancies concerning funds going to Animus Professionals. This is when the investigation officially launched and gained some speed. Amber Blake decided to confront Julie Brown before getting the cops involved and this is when Julie exclaimed, “I [messed] up, I got into a hole and I was trying to get out.”
Amber Blake decided it was high time Mrs. Brown took ownership of her felonious acts so she contacted the police who involved the Colorado Bureau of Investigations to bring justice for those citizens who lost money over funding Julie Brown’s adventurous lifestyle.
The most important thing court-appointed officials say needs to happen is financial restitution. She was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison but given that good-faith financial restitution takes place in a timely fashion this sentence has the potential to be significantly reduced. The court reconvenes in May of 2021 to see how much she has paid back the city thus far.
If Mrs. Brown pays back the promised $250,000 in funds to Durango before her court date in May her defense attorney has the authority to renegotiate the amount of jail time served. She is currently dealing with the following charges of 5 years in prison for theft which is a Class 3 felony and 3 years for a Class 5 felony of embezzlement. She also faces 3 years of mandatory parole and is legally bound to pay back the $712,298 in restitution to the great city of Durango.
Moving forward the city is amping up security for internal processes that manage finances for their city to avoid such significant losses in the future. This system will double-check financial records and catch fraud early on with an internal audit system before these heinous crimes do irreparable damage to the budget and erode public trust regarding their leaders.
Another trust-building action taken by public servants in Durango, Colorado is more transparency in regards to where funds are being allocated after the fallout of Mrs. Brown’s crimes against the city.
City Manager Jose Madrigal is creating a new online platform giving the public access to publicly review financial actions taken by the city. This new program will serve as a good-faith action that the city is taking this case very seriously and has the public’s best interests at heart.
The City Councilor involved with this case Kim Baxter responds to the charges by adding, “I’m encouraged because I really believe that getting restitution is incredibly important and should be a priority. That’s what we’re looking for, but the judge left the door open for her to have some jail time to make her accountable for her actions.” This quote was pulled from the following press release covering this incidence if you’d like to keep up to date on the proceedings.