FARMINGTON — The Farmington Visitors and Convention Bureau's attorney sent letters earlier this month asking people who may have benefited from Debbie Dusenbery's embezzlement to make donations to the bureau.
The city of Farmington did not reveal who received a letter, but one police officer is among the people who benefited from Dusenbery's alleged crimes.
Dusenbery, 41, is accused of stealing nearly $500,000 from the bureau when she was its executive director. The thefts allegedly occurred from 2006 to 2012, according to police reports. In January, in the midst of the investigation into the missing money, Dusenbery committed suicide in Arizona.
The bureau received less than $50,000 from Dusenbery's estate, said Tonya Stinson, the bureau's current executive director.
Farmington City Council members suggested during a March meeting that the bureau send letters to people who may have benefited from the embezzlement and ask them to donate funds to the bureau.
"We don't want to accuse them of a crime ... we want to educate them and ask for a donation," said Farmington City Councilor Jason Sandel in a Thursday interview.
The bureau's attorney, Dick Gerding, sent out the letters earlier this month, according to documents obtained by The Daily Times. Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell said he was not aware of how many people will receive letters asking for donations or if anyone has agreed to make a donation to the bureau.
Former Farmington police Detective Sgt. Robert Perez investigated the embezzlement at the bureau and identified several people who may have benefited from it.
Perez said in a police report that Farmington police Sgt. Rick Simmons and his wife received round-trip airfare and lodging from Dusenbery. He also said Russell Smith, Dusenbery's former boyfriend, received more than $40,000 from Dusenbery to renovate his house in Aztec. Ronald Fellabaum, another boyfriend and Simmons' father-in-law, and Becky Walling, a former executive director of the bureau, traveled extensively with Dusenbery, and Walling was the benefactor of her life insurance policy, according to the police reports.
No charges were brought against anyone for benefiting from the funds Dusenbery embezzled.
Simmons said he had no idea Dusenbery was stealing from the bureau. He said that he reported his father-in-law's relationship with Dusenbery to his superiors when he learned she was being investigated.
Simmons said he was notified about donating funds to the bureau, adding that the request is being "given the proper consideration."
"It's unfair that innocent people were duped," he said in an interview Thursday. "The investigation clearly showed that those who were involved had no idea about the things that were going on."
During his interactions with Dusenbery, Simmons said he and the former bureau executive director purchased items for each other, but he never knew she was stealing.
"I followed the investigation as to how it pertained to me and my family and made sure I operated within the guidelines I need to as an employee of the city of Farmington," he said. "A lot of people were deceived by her actions and a lot of innocent folks were dragged into it."
Farmington police Internal Affairs Lt. Taft Tracy said the department investigated Simmons and found he didn't break any laws.
During the investigation into the theft, the San Juan County District Attorney's Office denied a search warrant for Walling, saying there was no evidence she committed a crime.
Police documents from the investigation appear to list people -- whose names the police department redacted -- who received trips from Dusenbery to Hilton Head, S.C., the Dominican Republic, Belize, the Grand Cayman Island, Miami, Las Vegas and San Jose, Calif.
In an interview, Gerding, the bureau's attorney, declined to discuss Perez's report. Gerding said he wasn't aware of the existence of any letters.
"I don't know of any efforts that have been made to recoup funds that were wrongfully obtained by people other than Miss Dusenbery," he said Thursday.
In a letter Gerding wrote to Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes in May, Gerding said he planned to send letters to people who may have benefited from Dusenbery's embezzlement.
"My firm will write all letters and will receive all donations, which donations will be placed in the firm's Trust Account and forwarded to FCVB without names of donors," he wrote to Mayes. "All letters must remain confidential; no copies should be made or circulated to anyone ..."
Gerding could not be reached Thursday afternoon for follow up questions.
He said in his letter to Mayes that confidentially was needed because otherwise the people who may have benefited from Dusenbery's theft could have their reputations damaged.Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.