Bookkeeper for local ranch faces embezzlement charges

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to remove the name of the ranch, which was incorrectly identified previously. The ranch was not named in the bookkeeper’s arrest affidavit.

A former bookkeeper for a Routt County ranch was arrested Thursday, March 23, after she was accused of embezzling more than $300,000 from her employer.

According to the affidavit for her arrest, Martha Sue Hawkins, 63, was hired to provide bookkeeping services for a ranch on Routt County Road 44 from January 2015 until April 2022. Hawkins’ business, called Doc-u-ments, was also licensed with the state.

The affidavit says the owner of the ranch told police that Hawkins had authorization to pay herself for bookkeeping services and to use Quickbooks, an accounting software package, for keeping track of the ranch’s finances. 

Detective TJ Sisto of the Routt County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the case in September 2021, and Colorado Department of Revenue Agent Gessford got involved in February. Based on Gessford’s analysis, Hawkins received a total of $755,772 from the ranch, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says the rancher first became concerned about her business’ finances in December 2020 and consulted with a certified public accountant who was hired to provide accounting services during the same time frame Hawkins was bookkeeping for the ranch.

The affidavit shows the accountant and the rancher compared bank and credit card statements to a general ledger and discovered discrepancies between the reported amount of money in the general ledger and amount on the bank and credit card statements. In June 2022 Detective Sisto spoke with the accountant, who provided him with information regarding the discrepancies.

The affidavit also shows that Detective Sisto reviewed the documents in March 2023 and found that Hawkins paid herself $425,973 from January 2015 through December 2020.

The difference between what Hawkins received in Agent Gessford’s analysis versus what Hawkins received according to the Quickbooks data is $329,794. This money is not shown in the general ledgers as being received by Hawkins and therefore is considered stolen.

One example in the affidavit alleges Hawkins paid herself $5,074 in July 2020, though the bank statement showed that Hawkins had only paid herself $74.74 on that date. The affidavit says that the accountant told Detective Sisto he spoke with Hawkins over the phone about this transaction and she first told him that she regularly sent money to an anonymous person at the rancher’s request. Afterward, the accountant reportedly spoke with the rancher, who confirmed she had not directed Hawkins to do so. 

According to the affidavit, Connally spoke to Hawkins a second time about the matter, and she told him she was the anonymous person and the rancher gave her permission to pay herself $5,000 per month as a commission for selling another ranch.

However, the rancher reportedly told Detective Sisto she never agreed to pay Hawkins for the sale of the ranch. The rancher said that Hawkins is a real estate agent with a Colorado license, but the sale of the ranch occurred in New Mexico.

The affidavit says the rancher told Sisto that Hawkins provided a name for a potential buyer and had nothing to do with the transaction or showing of the ranch in New Mexico.

However, while the rancher reportedly told the detective that Hawkins did request a fee, the rancher also said the request was not granted because Hawkins was not a real estate agent in New Mexico and therefore paying her a commission was not appropriate. 

The rancher told authorities the $323,772 identified from banking and Quickbooks records as being paid to Hawkins was not authorized and the payments were made through deception.

Hawkins’ bond was set at $20,000, and she will appear in court for the first time April 4.

The arrest affidavit acknowledges that the difference found between Gessford’s analysis of Hawkins receiving $755,772 from the ranch and the general ledger’s data showing Hawkins receiving $425,973 comes out to $329,794.

The affidavit says the charges against Hawkins detail allegations that she embezzled $323,772 without accounting for the $6,000 discrepancy.

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