BOULDER, Colo. -
A 29-year-old former bookkeeper for a small Boulder laser optics business forged company checks and charged company credit cards in a $230,000 pilfering scheme -- money she spent on a luxury cruise, a flat-screen TV, and a $56,000 Mercedes Benz, according to a court document released Thursday.
Amber Marie Turner, who worked for Precision Photonics until May 2008, is set to be formally charged Friday with three felony counts -- theft over $20,000, unauthorized use of a financial transaction device over $20,000 and identity theft.
Officials with Precision Photonics, which was founded nine years ago by scientists from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, told police that Turner's alleged embezzlement forced the company to lay off employees.
CEO Chris Myatt, reached at his office Thursday, declined to reveal how many employees were let go and said he didn't want to comment about the case.
Turner was arrested last week and released on $10,000 bond.
"These allegations are very serious and if the alleged conduct is established in court, it will show that it was very devastating to this very small business in Boulder County," Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said.
Garnett, who took office in January, has established an Economic and Business Crimes Unit and made the prosecution of white-collar crime a focus.
According to an arrest affidavit, Myatt and Precision Photonics co-owner Sarah Hatcher told police that Turner added her name to the company's MasterCard account and made 79 unauthorized ATM cash advance withdrawals to the tune of $40,000 in a 3-month span in late 2007 and early 2008.
She also opened a company American Express account in her name, they alleged, making more than $140,000 in unauthorized purchases between July 2007 and April 2008, including the $56,400 Mercedes Benz from a Westminster Mercedes Benz dealership.
Other illicit purchases included a $1,427 shopping spree at Nordstrom, a $2,000 queen mattress, airline tickets, a $4,264 Royal Caribbean cruise and $4,260 spent at Vail Resorts, the document states.
Turner would download monthly credit card statements and remove her purchases, Hatcher and Myatt told police, and then use her access to the company's checking account to pay off the credit card purchases.
In all, she made $53,000 worth of unauthorized transactions at 119 merchants, police said.
The arrest document also details two alleged check forgeries by Turner, in which she paid herself nearly $7,700 by forging Hatcher's signature on the checks.
Myatt told police he only noticed the embezzled funds after firing the company's financial controller last year and going through Precision Photonics' financial records.
Garnett said the alleged actions Turner engaged in is "surprisingly common" in Boulder County, particularly at smaller companies where employees are entrusted with company funds and protocols for handling money and accounting for expenditures may not be in place.
"If we can prosecute these kinds of cases, we can protect just the kinds of businesses we want in Boulder County," he said.