Suspect is accused of taking more than $2,300

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FARMINGTON — The former executive director of the San Juan County Crime Stoppers is accused of embezzling more than $2,300 in funds from the organization on personal purchases and ATM cash withdrawals.

Carlee Hooper, 31, is accused by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office of fourth-degree felony counts of embezzlement and tampering with evidence, according to the criminal complaint.

She is accused of making about $2,347 in unreported charges using a bank card attached to Crime Stoppers bank account between February 2017 and July 22, along with deleting evidence on a Crime Stoppers phone, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Hooper turned herself in at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center today and was released on her own recognizance.

Shellie Patscheck, Hooper's attorney, said she looks forward to reviewing the evidence before the Aug. 9 preliminary hearing in Aztec Magistrate Court.

Patscheck said the San Juan County Sheriff's Office solely based the accusations on account discrepancies, and she believes it was a bookkeeping error, adding Hooper didn’t have any malicious intent. 

Curtis McGee, the chairman of the San Juan County Crime Stoppers board, said Hooper turned in her resignation and that the position would be posted soon. Hooper had served as the organization's executive director since May 2016.

"It's the upmost importance of Crime Stoppers to maintain integrity of the program and working with the Sheriff's Office, we'll do what it takes to maintain that relationship," McGee said.

It was McGee who reported Hooper for possible embezzlement to the Sheriff's Office around July 18.

A detective obtained bank statements for the checking account and compared them to monthly financial reports generated by Hooper and allegedly found several discrepancies.

Hooper was the only person issued a card for the bank account, which was set up to make purchases including office supplies and travel expenses.

She is the only paid employee for San Juan County Crime Stoppers, and the board members are all volunteer.  

Hooper is accused of making 57 debits for personal charges and ATM withdrawals this year for about $1,905, and about 18 transactions between September and December 2017 for about $441.

Of the 57 debits Hooper allegedly made this year, there were eight cash withdrawals from ATMs for $880.

Hooper was interviewed at the Sheriff's Office on Tuesday. She told the detective she did not use the bank statements to generate financial reports but used her receipts to produce the reports.

When asked about the ATM withdrawals, Hooper claimed it was for petty cash and that she never pulled cash for herself.

A review of the petty cash report stated the balance was $50.41 in January and went down to $40 in May and June, according to court documents.

At one point, Hooper told the detective she occasionally used the card to buy herself lunch or buy snacks for the office.

Hooper told the detective she withdrew cash one time to make purchases at Safeway to buy items for Kidsfest.

Hooper added she could not explain why she withdrew cash to purchase the items rather than using the bank card.

Toward the end of the interview, Hooper was asked to provide account information for Crime Stoppers' social media accounts, along with her Crime Stoppers phone and computer equipment.

Hooper is accused of performing a complete factory reset of her Crime Stoppers phone, which wiped all data from the phone that could have been used as evidence.

A search of the Crime Stoppers office found receipts used for fast food, snacks, fuel and one purchase of alcohol, according to the affidavit.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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