High Country Crime: Aspen dog sitter sent to jail for stealing checks
A fired dog-sitter who stole her Aspen employer’s checkbook and wrote nearly $160,000 worth of checks to herself was taken to jail in handcuffs Monday, May 21, after her sentencing hearing.
Vanessa Simon, 21, pleaded guilty to felony theft in the case and will spend the next 10 years on probation attempting to repay the debt, which was augmented Monday by more than $4,000 in interest. District Judge Chris Seldin also ordered her to spend the next 90 days in jail as part of her sentence, which began Monday.
“Cases like this involve opportunism and the recklessly naïve belief that you can take from people again and again and not get caught,” Seldin said. “It was only a matter of time before somebody figured out what you were up to.”
Simon said she was ashamed and sorry for her actions and told the court she was not a dishonest person.
Simon was fired in May 2017 from the dog-sitting job, though the first check she wrote to herself occurred April 20, 2017, according to court documents. The most recent check was dated Jan. 8. The 45 checks Simon wrote to herself ranged between $500 and $9,500, the documents state.
Simon admitted she stole the money when a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy called her in Denver to ask about the checks. She said she’d been in school and needed the money to live.
Simon must pay back a total of $164,458 as part of her plea agreement. She also must undergo a mental-health evaluation and write an apology letter to the victim in the case.
-Jason Auslander, The Aspen Times
Appeal by convicted Steamboat child molester denied
A former Steamboat Springs Christian school teacher and pastor in prison for molesting a 12-year-old boy has lost his appeal.
A Routt County jury found John Brothers Jr. guilty of eight felony counts of sex assault on a child. One charge was filed for each of the eight times in 2007 that Brothers molested the 12-year-old boy.
Prosecutors argued Brothers groomed the boy over time to gain his trust leading up to the molestation at a residence in Steamboat.
During the sentencing hearing, Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen described Brothers as “a serial child molester” who “methodically organized his life around the ability to sexually assault children.”
Also during the sentencing, Judge Shelley Hill told Brothers the only way he could possibly be released from prison was if he won an appeal and had his conviction overturned during a new trial or if he admitted what he had done, got treatment and convinced a parole board he should be released.
Karzen said that during the appeal process, Brothers challenged the admissibility of expert testimony on the topics of sexual abuse dynamics and offender grooming behaviors and on the admission of testimony from another victim of Brothers in Kentucky.
The Colorado Court of Appeals rejected the arguments.
“While we were confident the trial was a clean one, it is always a welcome development when an appellate court agrees and affirms the convictions, particularly in a case like this,” Karzen said.
-Matt Stensland, Steamboat Today
Brothers arrested in connection with Eagle, Garfield County drug ring
Prosecutors are expected to file charges Wednesday against a 34-year-old man who allegedly led a widespread drug trafficking ring that operated across Eagle and Garfield counties.
Jose Alejandro Flores-Alba, held at Garfield County Jail on $500,000 bond, was arrested May 14 and charged with eight felony crimes related to the possession and distribution of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.
He is expected to appear in front of a judge for a filing of charges at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
According to court documents, a confidential source started providing information to authorities about Flores-Alba in June 2017, offering to arrange multiple sting operations between the drug trafficker and law enforcement authorities.
The source, referred to as “CS” in court papers, had been leaking information to authorities about other drug dealers since July 2016, in exchange for money and judicial consideration in his or her own pending drug distribution charge.
Court papers say CS was introduced to Flores-Alba by another drug trafficking associate.
According to a court affidavit, over the course of six months, CS arranged eight sting operations between Flores-Alba and undercover authorities and that at each meeting, large quantities of illegal drugs were purchased, usually costing more than $1,000 each visit.
During the course of the investigation, the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team purchased about two pounds of methamphetamine, three ounces of cocaine and one ounce of heroin.
Each time officers seized drugs, they tested and placed them in temporary storage lockers as evidence, the documents say.
Two 9th Judicial District court judges gave permission to intercept nine different oral, electronic or wire communication devices that belonged to Flores-Alba to help with the investigation, and the additional surveillance allowed officers to confiscate an additional 127 grams of cocaine during a traffic stop, in which Flores-Alba was caught speeding.
Flores-Alba’s brother, Agustin, who would often allegedly fill in on drug sales, was arrested three days after his older brother and charged with six similar crimes.
He is held on $30,000 bond and is expected to appear in court on May 30 at 1:30 p.m.
-Tatiana Flowers, Glenwood Springs Post-Independent
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