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The defendant is also facing two drug-related charges stemming from her arrest.

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FARMINGTON — A Farmington business owner is advising local businesses to avoid the mistakes she made after a former employee allegedly defrauded her business of more than $11,500.

Aztec resident Brittany Cole, 31, is accused of 11 felony counts, including seven charges for forgery along with fraudulent use of a credit card, fraud and embezzlement, according to court records.

She is accused of forgery, embezzlement and fraud, and has seven felony convictions on her record. 

Special K Fitness lost more than $12,000, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Cole did not have legal representation on the morning of Aug. 23.

Owner Kim Noyes told The Daily Times that it's taking a lot of work to clean up her company's finances. The business focuses on physical therapy for medical patients.

"The stress has been unbelievable," Noyes said.

Cole is accused of forging Noyes' signature and using Noyes' physician rubber stamp to write herself checks, which were cashed for a total of about $3,300. The defendant is also accused of using Noyes' Amazon account to rack up about $6,900 in purchases.

Computer, ring and wedding dress purchased

Cole is accused of creating an Office Depot account for Special K, which she is then accused of using to buy herself an Apple MacBook Air laptop with a two-year warranty for about $1,400, according to court documents and Noyes.

She also allegedly embezzled about $730 in cash from the business.

The case was first reported to the Farmington Police Department on July 5, and an officer spoke to Cole on July 6.

Documents indicate that Cole admitted to keeping money she had taken out of the businesses' bank account, and claimed she accidentally used the company's Amazon account instead of her own.

Cole stated she was facing financial difficulties due to separating from her husband and having two small children.

Some of the Amazon purchases included a $999 pair of boots, an Apple TV, a wedding dress and a wedding ring, according to court documents and Noyes.

Lessons learned

At the time Noyes hired Cole, the business was in transition after she had three longtime employees leave or retire. Noyes said a background check was not part of the hiring process.

The business owner stated one of Cole's relatives lied and posed as a job reference, giving Cole a glowing review.

Noyes states she regrets not performing a background check on Cole, adding it can be a costly expense for a small business.

The business owner learned of Cole's seven felony convictions during the police investigation.

Cole has four convictions for acquisition or attempting to acquire a controlled substance by misrepresentation, and three for identity theft. The convictions stem from obtaining or attempting to obtain hydrocodone or Percocet by calling in prescription medication orders, according to court documents.

She also has two misdemeanor convictions for attempted theft of a credit card.

In one of the cases, she pled down to a single misdemeanor conviction after allegedly embezzling more than $3,600 from a Farmington bank, according to court documents.

"It's really done a number on myself, my company, my staff," Noyes said.

Retired staffer returns

Noyes has had to rehire her retired business manager to help straighten out her finances. Some of the work required included closing bank accounts and business credit cards and reopening ones to keep the business running.

Packages of items Cole allegedly ordered are still at the office, including jewelry and shoes.

Noyes stated she reached out to The Daily Times to stop this from happening to another business in the area, and hopes other local businesses will learn from her mistakes.

The business owner is still dealing with Office Depot, as the company is trying to collect payment on the computer Cole allegedly purchased.

Cole faces two drug-related charges from when she was arrested on July 31.

When she was being booked into the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, a "rock" of methamphetamine was allegedly found in her possession, according to court documents.

She was released on her own recognizance from the county jail. 

Cole's preliminary hearings set for the morning of Aug. 21 in Farmington Magistrate Court were reset, with a new Sept. 25 status hearing scheduled

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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