Former Durango CFO convicted again for stealing $ 712,000 in taxpayer money – The Durango Herald


Julie Brown sentenced to jail and 20 years probation

Durango’s former chief financial officer was sentenced again Friday to 90 days in prison and 20 years probation for embezzling more than $ 712,000 from city coffers in 11 years.

“You are going to be under the thumb of the criminal justice system for a very long time,” 6th Judicial District Judge William Herringer said as he handed down the 20-year probation sentence.

Julie Brown, 52, pleaded guilty in November to two felonies: embezzlement of public property and theft of $ 100,000 to $ 1 million. Brown worked in municipal finance for more than 17 years before resigning in October 2019 amid allegations of fraud.

Brown was sentenced in January to five years in prison, three years on parole and to pay $ 712,298 in restitution to the city. But Herringer agreed to suspend that sentence and reconsider it if Brown made a good faith effort to repay the restitution.

Since then, Brown has paid around $ 439,511 in restitution, emptying his 401,000 and other liquid assets.

Herringer said Brown’s jail sentence would be purely punitive and not rehabilitative. Additionally, female prisoners typically only serve about a third of their sentence due to early release for good behavior, and it would cost taxpayers about $ 45,000 per year to house her in the Department of Corrections, a- he declared.

“I don’t know if I have had a property crime in the eight years that I have been doing this that has occupied as much of my thinking as this case,” Herringer said before the sentencing. “This is a case where I think there are just really hard considerations to balance.”

Brown made good faith efforts to repay the stolen money, Herringer said, and she got a job in Garfield County that allowed her to continue making payments.

But he said Brown’s embezzlement involved planning, repeated actions over several years, and a significant amount of money.

“I don’t believe you run a risk of committing future offenses,” Herringer said. “I can certainly be wrong about that. If I am, I have the discretion to sentence you to a very long prison term for this matter.

Herringer also gave Brown the option to apply for work release in Garfield or La Plata counties, which would allow her to work during the day but she would have to report to jail at night. But if she takes this route, she will have to go to jail for a year.

Brown is due to report to jail or the work release program on July 9.

Brown would have to pay the city $ 1,200 a month for about 18 years to complete his rendition. A collection investigator will make sure that she pays the maximum amount possible even if her income changes.

During Friday’s hearing, Brown’s defense attorney Richard Jaye said his client did everything the court asked him to do.

His sister, Laurie Gray, also spoke up, saying Brown takes responsibility for his actions.

“She did all she could to repay the money,” Gray said. “Everything they owned, they basically sold. She lost her career, her licenses, her marriage. … She tries to turn the tide.

Attorney General David Ottman argued that the stolen money cost the city the opportunities to provide for the residents of Durango.

Durango Pro Mayor Tem Barbara Noseworthy read a statement approved by city council.

“The only way we think we can begin the process of healing and restoring confidence in our municipal government is to see this conviction come to fruition with all the consequences for the actions and crimes committed by Ms. Brown,” the letter said.

City council pointed to the damage done by Brown’s actions, including eroding public and staff confidence, lost financial opportunities, and additional spending to review and consolidate the city’s finances.

According to an arrest affidavit, Brown approved checks from the city of Durango to Animas Professionals in her role as director of finance. From there, she deposited the checks into her personal bank account.

Court records show Animas Professionals was disbanded in 2010 and was owned by Bill Brown, Julie Brown’s stepfather.

Since October 2019, the city has reorganized its internal processes to recheck financial records, launched a specially designed external audit to detect fraud and updated its policies to match best practices.

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