A Basalt woman was arrested Sunday following an Aspen Police Department investigation on suspicion that she stole more than $40,000 from member accounts at the credit union where she worked.
In his affidavit for an arrest warrant, Aspen policeman Jeff Fain named four victims whose credit-union accounts allegedly were pilfered by Jessica Dawn Sorensen, 39. Among them were former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland and Bill Linn, assistant Aspen police chief. However, Linn said Monday that he and his wife checked the account records and he’s not completely sure he was a victim in the case.
Pitkin County District Court Judge Gail Nichols on Monday advised Sorensen that she faces four charges stemming from her actions between September and July at her place of employment, the Aspen office of Grand Junction Federal Credit Union. The charges include three felonies: theft (over $20,000), fraud (identity theft) and fraud (computer crimes). She also is accused of a single misdemeanor, second-degree forgery.
Sorensen did not have legal representation at the advisement, and Nichols suggested that she apply for a public defender prior to her next court appearance on Sept. 16. Sorensen told Nichols that she has been receiving treatment through Colorado West Mental Health for an unspecified addiction. As a condition of Sorensen’s release from Pitkin County Jail on a personal-recognizance bond, Nichols mandated that she continue to seek help through that agency.
According to Fain, Sorensen would withdraw money from certain accounts, sometimes by forging the member’s signature and sometimes without a signature. Before mailing out the member’s balance statements, she would replace the money with an unauthorized personal loan she made to herself so that it would reflect the original balance, Fain said.
She also would change the victims’ addresses so that they would not receive the statements showing her many withdrawals, Fain said, in some instances changing their phone contact information. Later, she would transfer money from their accounts back to her personal use, the affidavit said.
On July 1, Judy Stratton, president of the credit union, became aware of a $50,000 unsecured loan Sorensen took out on June 28 and confronted her, Fain wrote.
“Stratton told Sorensen that she was not allowed to issue herself loans, especially one of this amount. Sorensen stated, ‘I know, I didn’t want you to know how much money I owe people.’ Sorensen was told that she had to give back the $50,000 and cancel the loan,” Fain reported.
Stratton told Fain that she became aware of some “suspicious transactions” around the same time she learned of the unauthorized loan. She said she planned to meet Sorensen at the Aspen office of the Grand Junction financial institution on July 11. It’s not clear from the affidavit whether that meeting ever took place.
“Between (July 1 and July 11) Stratton received several complaints from credit union members that no one was at the office,” Fain wrote. “When she arrived at the office on (July 11) it was in complete disarray, and took several days of cleaning to put back in order.”
When Stratton and another credit-union employee went through the office’s records, they discovered that $5,349.51 was missing from a vault and a cash drawer, Fain’s statement said.
Ireland said Monday that he opened his account several years ago when he was a Pitkin County commissioner and hasn’t used it since, preferring to let the money draw interest at a low rate. After looking at the transactions and signatures authorizing a withdrawal, the former mayor said it was not his signature, according to Fain.
Ireland told The Aspen Times he’s not upset with the credit union, which has promised to restore his account fully through its insurance.
“The account had money that I saved in the Pitkin County savings plan and some of my own personal savings,” Ireland said.” It turns out that the teller would put money into the account right before the quarterly statements were sent out, and then take it back out later. I never noticed it or had any reason to be concerned. She got like $10,000 from my account, which is not huge, but it’s huge to me.”