McKenzie pleads guilty

Former dental coalition director to serve no time for embezzling funds

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Former Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition Executive Director Robin McKenzie, 36, pleaded guilty Monday to theft from the dental coalition and Moffat County Partners both non-profit organizations with goals of assisting low-income or at-risk youth.

Her plea was part of an agreement with the District Attorney's office that she get no jail time for her crimes.

McKenzie was charged with theft of more than $30,000 from the dental coalition, a third-degree felony, and theft of less than $500 from Partners, a second-degree misdemeanor.

Assistant District Attorney David Waite, who prosecuted the case, was unavailable for comment at press time.

On March 27, Northwest Dental Coalition board members Cheryl Ivy and Debbie Cook, who said they believed McKenzie had embezzled money from the coalition's checking account, contacted the Craig Police Department. McKenzie had resigned about a month earlier to work as a case manager for Moffat County Partners, but was working part time to train her replacement, Debi Garoutte.

At that time, Ivy was contacted by Kids In Need of Dentistry (K.I.N.D.) saying the coalition owed K.I.N.D. $9,003 for services provided by K.I.N.D.'s mobile dental van. Ivy instructed McKenzie to wire the money, which McKenzie did using the Moffat County Partners checking account number.

When the bank contacted Ivy, she checked the coalition account and found that instead of the $11,000 balance that was thought to be in the account, there was no money.

According to Ivy, McKenzie was the only one who had use of the coalition's bank account. She was authorized to write all checks, including her payroll check, which was $798.44 bi-weekly. McKenzie wrote her payroll check for $1,798.44 on 11 occasions, according to court documents.

Ivy requested the coalition's financial records from McKenzie and was told most of them were kept at McKenzie's house, according to court documents. She and Garoutte went to McKenzie's house to collect the records. Many were missing. Of those found, Ivy discovered McKenzie had written several checks to herself. When asked what they were for, McKenzie started crying and said, "I don't know," according to court documents.

The signatures of two board members were required on each check coming from the coalition's account. Cook said McKenzie would often get board members to sign blank checks saying they were to "pay bills."

After inspection of financial records, Garoutte reported that McKenzie wrote $37,639.63 in unauthorized checks to herself from June 1, 2000, to Feb. 8, 2002.

Garoutte also found that the coalition's bills had not been paid for at least two months and several checks were returned marked insufficient funds.

McKenzie started working for Moffat County Partners on Feb. 20 as a case manager, which included making some deposits for the organization. According to Partners Director Debi Landoll, after hearing of the allegations against McKenzie, she started inspecting her organization's financial records and found that two deposits McKenzie said she made were not deposited. Those deposits were for $90 and $62.

Landoll also reported that McKenzie picked up $127 in revenue from Partners' annual Easter Egg fund-raiser, which also was not deposited.

A warrant was issued to search McKenzie's home on April 2. When officers arrived, McKenzie asked, "What's this about?" according to court documents. At that time, she said she had found some money in a box in her vehicle and returned $344 to Partners.

During that search and another at her Partners office, records were found showing McKenzie was in debt to several creditors, including The Memorial Hospital, according to court documents. Witnesses said they overheard a message from McKenzie's foster daughter telling McKenzie to call home right away because her vehicle was going to be repossessed. McKenzie told the witnesses that her foster daughter was mistaken. The call was just to make sure her insurance was current.

Investigations of McKenzie's financial records showed large deposits correlating with checks written out of the coalition's account and she had endorsed the checks.

Fourteenth Judicial District Judge Joel Thompson ordered that the District Attorney's office file a pre-sentencing investigation report, which will be presented at McKenzie's sentencing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 19.

It is not known what sentence the District Attorney's office will recommend. Penalties for the charges of felony theft include fines from $2,000 to $500,000 and a possible prison sentence of one to 32 years with up to five years of probation. But the District Attorney's office will not recommend jail time, according to her plea agreement.

McKenzie is being held in the Moffat County Jail on a

$20,000 bond.

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