A county judge sends inmate fund theft case to district court | SummitDaily.com

A county judge sends inmate fund theft case to district court

SUMMIT COUNTY – The case against Mary Jean Bottorf, accused of taking about $3,500 from the Summit County Jail inmate fund, will move on to district court.

County Court Judge Russell Granger ruled Tuesday there is enough evidence to show probable cause in the case.

The money Bottorf is charged with stealing disappeared between June of 1998 and December of 1999, while she was working as an administrative assistant at the jail. While other jail staff members had access to the fund, she was in charge of it.

Inmates and their friends or family members deposit money into the fund. The inmates can then use it to purchase items in the jail commissary. Sgt. Tom Tilka said the account is designed to always run with a positive balance; an inmate can’t purchase an item if he or she doesn’t have enough money in the account to do so.

Because of that, Tilka said he was shocked to get a call from a bank officer in December 1999. An employee of the FirstBank of Breckenridge said the inmate account was overdrawn, Tilka testified. Investigators found the account had not been balanced for months.

Tilka and then jail Capt. Monte Gore looked in the drawers of Bottorf’s desk and found several unopened overdraft notices from FirstBank, both men testified.

Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Larry Brown testified that Bottorf told him she felt the discrepancy was caused by “poor accounting practices.”

Under cross-examination by the defense counsel, Brown admitted discrepancies in the inmate fund continued to show up after Bottorf left the sheriff’s office. But, he said, it’s possible she could have been putting money back into the account then.

“It’s a long way from beyond a reasonable doubt,” Granger said. Nevertheless, he ruled the evidence is sufficient to move the case on to district court.

In January of 2000, Sheriff Joe Morales said the apparent theft was heartbreaking.

“The whole thing is very disappointing,” Morales said. “People make mistakes and sometimes have poor judgment, but we still have an office to run, and accountability is everything. What makes it extremely difficult … (is, these) are people you know very, very well. They’re close friends.”

A district court bindover hearing, similar to an arraignment, is set for 1 p.m. March 24. A defendant can enter a plea during a bindover hearing, but is not required to do so.

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com.

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