Gypsum man gets prison time for felony fraud and vehicle theft across the Western Slope |

Gypsum man gets prison time for felony fraud and vehicle theft across the Western Slope

Jesse Flores sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for nonviolent crimes, including those that took place in Summit County

Kelli Duncan
Vail Daily
Jesse Flores.
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

EAGLE — The sentencing of Jesse Flores — a 21-year-old Gypsum man convicted of defrauding people and businesses across seven counties — ultimately came down to one question.

“Should a 21-year-old young man with essentially no criminal history go to prison for nonviolent crimes?”

Flores’ public defender Kevin Jensen posed this question to Chief Judge Paul R. Dunkelman of the 5th Judicial District on Wednesday, Feb. 2, as his client sat before the bench with his head down.

The 5th Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum had just spent over two hours detailing what she called “a pattern of deceit” that is consistent across all his victims in Grand, Chaffee, Summit, Routt, Mesa, Lake and Eagle counties.

In each instance, Flores was “polite,” “courteous” and “engaging” as he communicated with various businesses and people who had vehicles for sale, McCollum said.

In each instance, he would write a bad check and then a whole host of excuses would come pouring in as to why he could not rectify the situation, she said. He would act shocked and blame the bank or a business partner, apologize profusely, suggest other methods of payment, provide documentation to assure he had the funds to make good on the deal and, in some cases, even return the vehicle.

The prosecution

McCollum read through pages of text messages between Flores and his victims in which he promises to deliver payments and gives increasingly elaborate excuses as to why they did not go through, persuading the victim not to go to law enforcement.

“He is a smooth talker, and he is a con, and he is very, very good,” she said. “He will tell anyone who is in front of him what they want to hear.”

Since charges were first brought against Flores in Eagle County in December 2020, it is alleged that he has written over $750,000 in fraudulent checks to steal a variety of cars, trucks, trailers, ATVs and snowmobiles, according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office. He also convinced a victim to pay him over $20,000 to rebuild a garage that he demolished but never rebuilt, McCollum said Wednesday.

After being released on bond, Flores returned to the same pattern of check fraud and theft, this time defrauding a man out of an $800 hunting bow he was selling on the internet. In March 2021, Eagle County prosecutors slapped Flores with a new misdemeanor charge of cybercrime to scheme or defraud as well as six new felony charges for violation of bail bond conditions — one for each county where he faced charges.

This alone shows that Flores was never a suitable candidate for a probationary sentence, McCollum argued Wednesday. Flores and his public defender applied for multiple community corrections facilities, where he could have served time in an environment more focused on rehabilitation, but he was rejected by all of them due to his repeated offenses and risk of recidivism, among other reasons.

“Probation doesn’t have the ability to monitor on a day-to-day basis what Mr. Flores is doing,” McCollum said.

“If he is released into the community on a probationary sentence, we will have more victims,” she said. “There is nothing that shows that Mr. Flores is going to stop.”

Ultimately, McCollum combined all of the cases across the seven counties into one Eagle County case.

The defense

Prior to the charges brought in 2020, Flores had no criminal record, his public defender, Kevin Jensen, said during the sentencing hearing Wednesday.

The plea deal Flores accepted in December 2021 convicted him on 13 charges — 12 felonies, including multiple counts of aggravated motor vehicle theft, fraud by check, and one count of felony forgery as well as one misdemeanor cybercrime charge.

But not a single one of these is a violent crime, Jensen said. Flores never became violent or even threatening with his victims, and Jensen argued all of the crimes boil down to two things when it comes to victim impact: being untruthful and damaging property.

All the vehicles stolen by Flores were ultimately returned to their owners — either by police or by Flores himself, Jensen said. A few of the vehicles were returned with significant damage, but Flores remains adamant that he wants to work to pay full restitution to his victims for those damages, he and Jensen said Wednesday.

He has already spent a few weeks in jail for his actions, Jensen said. What Flores needs now is rehabilitation and support in getting back on the right track, he said, adding that Flores has a bright future ahead of him if he can “make some changes and get his feet underneath him.”

With two children on the way, Flores pleaded with Dunkelman to give him the chance to prove himself on probation with the understanding that it could always be revoked, and prison time reinstated, if he failed.

The sentencing

“Should a 21-year-old young man with essentially no criminal history go to prison for nonviolent crimes?” Jensen asked as he mulled over the facts of the case.

“Unfortunately, in this case, the answer is ‘yes,’” Dunkelman said.

He sentenced Flores to 7 1/2 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections due to “the number of counts” and the “undue risk” of Flores falling back into this pattern of criminal behavior if allowed to remain in the community.

Flores was also ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution to many of his victims.

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