High Country Crime: Silt couple accused of embezzlement from Waffle House CEO’s ranch property
Editor’s note: this is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.
Bear Wallow Ranch, a property up Canyon Creek Road, is principally owned by the CEO of Waffle House Inc., Joe Rogers Jr., and his wife.
Charles Zane Farris, 53, and Charla Farris, 51, were arrested Tuesday, June 13. Both had been working on the ranch for more than 25 years. Charles was the ranch manager, and Charla’s duties included keeping the books.
The sheriff’s office began on the case after being contacted by the Rogerses’ attorney in September 2016. Law enforcement was tipped to allegations of theft, embezzlement of money, livestock and equipment from the ranch, according to a sheriff’s press release.
“The investigation yielded information that the alleged thefts have taken place over the course of many years and have reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to the sheriff’s office.
After eight months of investigating, authorities conducted a warranted search of the couple’s residence south of Silt. The FBI’s Glenwood Springs office assisted in the operation.
While working on the ranch, the Farrises were able to accumulate Waffle House stock, and they were on Waffle House payroll.
After the ranch was listed for sale, the Farrises remained, still getting paid a salary to oversee the property full time and live there rent- and utility-free, according to an affidavit.
But that same year, the Farrises started buying property south of Silt and setting up their own independent ranch — unbeknownst to the Bear Wallow owners.
“This adds up to (more than $1 million) spent on a home, garage, pole shed, steel building, and 406.6 total acres,” a sheriff’s investigator wrote in her arrest report.
As of the writing of the arrest warrant, the total amount in money and assets authorities allege the couple had stolen between 2012 to 2016 was more than $500,000. But that figure “does not include documented thefts as far back as the early 2000s” and it doesn’t include potentially stolen horses and cattle, according to the arrest report.
Aspen DUI driver shrugs off rollover, hitches to bar
A Snowmass Village man who flipped his car Saturday night, June 10, on Owl Creek Road and then abandoned it and hitched a ride to an Aspen bar was later arrested for drunken driving, according to police.
Ian Currie, 32, told officers he went to the bar to celebrate living through the ordeal, an Aspen police report states.
“Hey, I’m alive,” Currie told police, according to the report. “I’m going to enjoy my night.”
Police first received a call about a crash on Vrany Curve on Owl Creek Road about 10:40 p.m. Saturday, followed by another call from a man who said he dropped off the driver of the crashed car at Belly Up in Aspen, according to the report.
Currie told officers he’d driven to Belly Up, then gotten into a fight at the bar and walked outside to “do a little blaze,” or smoke cannabis, and discovered his car was gone, the report states. He said he planned to report the vehicle stolen after the show at Belly Up was over.
“I asked Currie if we could be honest,” Officer Dan Davis wrote in his report. “I told him we saw him walk in.
“Currie said, ‘Fair enough, fair enough. You got me. I crashed my car.’”
Local woman: Head injury led to underage drinking at Aspen nightclub
Aspen police charged a local woman with a felony Wednesday, June 14, after she was caught on video giving cocktails to her underage daughter and her daughter’s friends at a downtown bar last week, according to court documents.
Wendy Lucas, 55, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, though she told police she couldn’t remember buying the drinks, passing them to the girls or even the names of her daughter’s friends, according to an affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.
Police were first notified of the incident at about 11:15 p.m. June 7 by Belly Up staff who reported seeing two underage girls with alcohol, the affidavit states. An officer talked to one of the 17-year-old girls, who admitted drinking though police at the time did not determine how she got the alcohol.
The next day, Goldberg showed a surveillance video to an officer, who could “clearly see a woman known as Wendy Lucas … passing a drink to an underage girl,” the affidavit states.
“I am ashamed, embarrassed and regretful of my behavior at your club for the Milky Chance performance of Wednesday, June 7th,” Lucas wrote in the email, according to the affidavit.
However, Lucas said she’d been hiking earlier that day and had fallen, which caused her to lose all memory of the night at Belly Up, the affidavit states. She said she only learned she purchased margaritas for her daughter and friends after speaking with her daughter.
“I now believe I had a mild concussion and the alcohol affected my brain and my behavior,” Lucas wrote in the email to Goldberg, according to the affidavit. “I would certainly understand if you banned me from the Belly Up after what I did last Wednesday.”
Former Steamboat Springs High School teacher pleads guilty to theft
A former Steamboat Springs High School industrial arts teacher pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor Thursday, June 15.
Dustin “Dusty” Dike had been charged with seven felonies and five misdemeanors.
As part of a plea deal, Dike pleaded guilty to felony theft and misdemeanor first-degree criminal tampering.
Dike was first arrested June 16, 2016, after police suspected him of stealing a $75,000 backhoe.
Steamboat police then discovered evidence that led them to believe Dike had committed other crimes.
Police believe Dike burglarized a ski shop in Gondola Square as well as a business on 13th Street, which reported $7,000 worth of items had been stolen.
The standard prison sentence for felony theft is between two and six years.
The misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to 18 months in jail.
As part of the plea deal, Dike will be responsible for paying damages.
Dike’s Denver-based attorney Eric Fenster said in court that he planned to submit documentation stating Dike suffers from a medical condition.
Dike is undergoing experimental medical treatment, Fenster said, and he is hoping that Dike can be sentenced to court-supervised probation.
—Compiled from The Aspen Times, Glenwood Post-Independent and Steamboat Today
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