Durango’s former finance director admitted in October 2019 to stealing more than $700,000 from the city in a check writing-scheme, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation announced on Wednesday.
The Durango Police Department first contacted CBI after discovering Julie Brown reportedly wrote checks totaling approximately $500,000 to “Animas Professionals,” a company that did not exist after 2010. She then is alleged to have deposited them in her bank account, approving the city invoices for the payments.
“Amber Blake documented she confronted Julie Brown about the Animas Professionals invoice, told Julie Brown Animas Professionals did not exist, she (Julie Brown) endorsed the checks and deposited them into her account, and the dollar amount was $492,422.65,” wrote CBI Agent John Zamora in his affidavit for Brown’s arrest warrant. Blake is the interim city manager. According to Blake, Brown said: "I got into a hole and was trying to get out."
After speaking with Blake, Zamora reported that the city looked through its older software program and discovered more than $220,000 in additional checks to Animas Professionals.
The CBI subsequently found fraudulent credit card transactions totaling over $1,800. Brown admitted to the scam, and also told Zamora that “businesses were supposed to make payments to the City of Durango, [so] she set up payments where the businesses transferred money from their account(s) to the City of Durango's account, however, Julie Brown accidentally had the money from the businesses transferred into her personal Bank of Colorado account.”
The Durango Herald reports that Brown worked for the city for 17 years before her resignation.
“There’s absolutely a need for that (forensic audit) to make sure all of our policies and procedures are able to prevent the kind of misappropriations that have happened before,” Mayor Pro Tem Kim Baxter told the paper.
Jeffrey R. Wilson, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial District, signed Brown’s arrest warrant on July 7. Her charges include four felonies of theft, identity theft, embezzlement and forgery.
The city released a statement saying Brown is not considered a flight risk and will likely be released on bond because “the jail is currently experiencing excess capacity and is having difficulty maintaining social distancing sufficient to maintain a safe jail environment."