This past summer, four members of the Farris family from Silt were arrested for theft and embezzlement from Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers, Jr.’s Bear Wallow Ranch in Garfield County.
Charla and Charles “Zane” Farris were arrested in June “in connection with a long series of thefts that investigators say total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly more than $1 million.”
In 2012, the Farrises learned that the Waffle House CEO and his wife were planning on selling the ranch where they had worked as bookkeeper and ranch manager for over 25 years. Even though the Farrises weren’t going to be let go by the ranch, they allegedly started embezzling money, livestock, and equipment from Bear Wallow into their own ranch.
The Farris’ sons, Tyler and Dustin Farris, who both previously worked at Bear Wallow, turned themselves in to authorities in July after the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office issued warrants for their arrest on felony theft charges.
Although the Farris family is being accused of embezzlement, they have actually been charged with theft offenses. This is because here in Colorado two different laws cover the crime of embezzlement, and depending on whom the money was stolen from, you could be charged with either theft or embezzlement.
What Is Embezzlement According to Colorado Law?
Embezzlement is defined as “the fraudulent taking of property by someone to whom it was entrusted.” Embezzlement is usually associated with the misappropriation of money, and regardless of whether you keep the money for yourself or transfer it to another party, you can still be accused of embezzling.
While embezzlement is essentially theft, it is considered a white collar crime because for embezzlement to occur, the person committing the theft has to hold a position of trust or authority over the property.
In the case of the Farrises, they were employed as a bookkeeper and ranch manager, which gave them a position of trust and authority over Bear Wallow’s assets. If the Farrises had been employed in lesser positions where they weren’t entrusted with the ranch’s assets or hadn’t been employed by the ranch at all, they wouldn’t be accused of embezzlement.
Understanding Colorado Embezzlement Charges
In our state, you are charged differently depending on whether you embezzle private or public property.
Embezzlement of Private Property
If you are accused of embezzling private property, you will be charged with theft. The specific theft offense will be determined based upon the value of the stolen property:
- Under $50: Class 1 petty offense punishable by up to six months in jail.
- $50-$300: Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.
- $300-$750: Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by three months to one year in jail.
- $750-$2,000: Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by six to 18 months in jail.
- $2,000-$5,000: Class 6 felony punishable by one year to 18 months in prison.
- $5,000-$20,000: Class 5 felony punishable by one to three years in prison.
- $20,000-$100,000: Class 4 felony punishable by two to six years in prison.
- $100,000-$1 million: Class 3 felony punishable by four to 12 years in prison.
- Over $1 million: Class 2 felony punishable by eight to 24 years in prison.
The Farrises were accused of embezzling from the Waffle House CEO’s ranch, which is private property. For this reason, all four members of the Farris family were charged with theft.
Charla and Charles Farris were both charged with felony theft between $100,000 and $1 million, in addition to other charges related to computer crimes and filing false tax returns. If convicted, they face up to 12 years in prison as well as a fine of $3,000 to $750,000.
Tyler and Dustin Farris were both charged with felony theft between $5,000 and $20,000. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
Embezzlement of Public Property
If you are accused of embezzling public property, you will be charged with embezzlement of public property.
As a public servant, if you lawfully or unlawfully come into possession of any public money or property that is the property of the state and you knowingly convert that public money or property for your own use or any use other than what it was authorized for, you are guilty of embezzlement of public property.
Embezzlement of public property is a class 5 felony punishable one to three years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.
In addition to this criminal penalty, you will never be allowed to be a member of the general assembly of this state or hold any office of trust or profit in this state.
Fight Colorado Embezzlement Charges Today
Embezzlement is taken seriously in our state, and if you are being accused of this crime, you should take it seriously, too. Reach out to an experienced Colorado embezzlement lawyer today to battle your charges and fight for your rights.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.