Two locals arrested as embezzlement cases increase
Both suspects have been arrested amid a rash of alleged white-collar crimes in Eagle County this year as the nation struggles to rebound from recession, says Eagle County Sheriff’s Detective Doug Winter.
“I don’t know if I can attribute it to one single thing, but it seems like there are more cases this year,” Winters says. “A lot of the these things are starting to come to light now.”
Karen Kaffka, who was an officer manager for Edwards-based general contractor Summit Habitats, is accused of embezzling $2 million over a five-year period. She was arrested earlier this summer after an investigation that lasted about a month, Winters says.
“The owners of the business started to go through their accounts and there were some certain transactions Ms. Kaffka did that were questionable,” Winters says. “A closer check revealed there was money missing.”
Kaffka, who did accounting for the construction firm, has been charged on suspicion of felony theft and is now out on bail, Winters says.
Summit Habitats, meanwhile, has recovered about a quarter of the missing money, he says.
Last month, Winters says he arrested Mark Mogul, a valley real estate agent who is suspected of keeping approximately $350,000 meant to go toward the purchase of time shares.
Mogul, who has been working in the valley for several years, was supposed to keep the money in an escrow account and then turn it over to the owners of the time-shares, Winters says.
“On the date of transactions, the money that had been wire-transferred to an escrow account never went to the sellers,” Winter says. “Mr. Mogul kept the money in escrow and never released the funds.”
The transactions began last August. The case took about a year to investigate, Winters says.
Mogul was arrested on suspicion of felony theft last month and has since been released on bond, Winter says.
None of the money has been recovered, Winters says.
“In tough economic times,” says Mike Goodbee, the district attorney for Eagle County, “it’s easier to spot folks embezzling on the inside.”
Goodbee says he believes more white-collar crime occurs in the region than authorities know about.
“I’ve long had the suspicion that there’s a great deal more white-collar crime in Eagle and Summit counties than is ever reported – just because of the volume of cash that flows through these counties. There are just so many opportunities.”
Earlier this summer, an Avon man who allegedly swindled more than $600,000 in condominium fees from a property management company was arrested after turning himself in, Winters says.
Brandon Outlaw, 30, of Avon, has been charged on suspicion of theft, unlawful use of a financial transaction device and forgery, Winter says.
Outlaw worked for a company that managed the accounts of the property owners’ associations at several Vail Valley condominium complexes.
Businesses are more likely to notice money is missing when economic times are tough, Goodbee says.
“I think people don’t report it a lot of times out of a sense of embarrassment. A lot of times they can absorb the loss, keep their mouth shut and move along,” Goodbee says. “I don’t think people are in same financial posture now. If people embezzle from them, they may or may not be able to absorb the loss.”
The aim of white-collar prosecutions is not only to punish the suspects but also to recover stolen money, Goodbee says.
“Our goal in prosecuting white-collar crime is two-fold: We want an admission and a conviction,” he says, “and we want to be able to secure substantial restitution for the victims.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.