Colorado Woman Received 15-Year Probation for Embezzling $250k From Orthodontist


Cheryl Dunlap, the woman charged with embezzling more than $250,000 from a local orthodontist while employed there, was sentenced to 15 years of probation and to repay $252,087 but received no prison sentence. Dunlap, 46, worked as a bookkeeper for John Traul Orthodontics in Glenwood Springs for 10 years.

She is accused of writing 111 bogus company checks to herself totaling $252,087.62 between April 1999 and February 2004, the arrest affidavit said. Traul first discovered money was missing from his business in March when he was notified by his accountant that Dunlap was suspected of cashing an unauthorized check against one of the business accounts.”Traul stated that there were several checks signed by Dunlap, and there were also several checks that had been deposited but were not signed,” the affidavit said. Dunlap also might have used a signature stamp to forge some of the checks, the affidavit said. The affidavit said Dunlap admitted to police that she stole the money and she wanted to “make it right.”Dunlap told officers, “Everyone knows that I’m guilty, I did it and that it is time that I admit to it,” according to the affidavit. Traul’s orthodontics business has offices in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Rifle.

If Dunlap is convicted on both charges, she could face 5 to 15 years in prison.

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Prosperident Catches Another One — Colorado Embezzler Arrested

Layla Masset

This brief paragraph in the Pueblo, Colorado Chieftain tells the story of another embezzler caught by Prosperident. What is does not tell is the financial and emotional harm caused to her victim.

Layla Masset, 45, of North Carolina, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of theft in an amount between $20,000 and $100,000. She was being held at jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.

We note that Ms. Masset has changed careers and is now in the real estate business, where her claim is “I am here to provide you with top notch professional real estate services with HONESTY, INTEGRITY, and RESULTS.” However, her LinkedIn profile claims that she has worked for the same real estate company for 12 years, which may not be accurate.

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The work of Prosperident Senior Investigator Mindy Salzman was responsible for this one.  Great job, Mindy!

Colorado woman admits to embezzling $500,000 from dental office

Update January 4, 2019 — Ms. Bernazzani was sentenced to four years in prison today.


A 49-year-old Durango woman has been arrested for embezzling an estimated $500,000 from her former employer at a local dentist office over a six-year period.

Robin Bernazzani was booked this week into the La Plata County Jail on felony charges of theft from Dental Associates of the Southwest. She is free on $25,000 bail.

Calls to Bernazzani were not returned. Her attorney, Richard Jaye, also did not return calls seeking comment.

Dental Associates of the Southwest, a group of three or four dentists located at 801 Florida Road, also did not return calls seeking comment. The dentist office’s attorney, Michael McLachlan, said he was unable to comment because the case is actively under investigation.

“Until the investigation is terminated, we do not feel it’s appropriate to comment at this time,” McLachlan said.

According to an arrest affidavit, Bernazzani stole an estimated $500,000 by using methods such as writing checks to herself or using a doctor’s credit cards to pay for personal bills and online shopping.

Durango police issued the arrest warrant Monday.

Court records show Bernazzani and her lawyer went to the dental offices on May 1 to confess she had been embezzling for up to six years.

On May 9, Bernazzani gave McLachlan and the dental office a written confession that explained “why and when she began to embezzle the money,” according to the arrest affidavit. She also took “full responsibility for committing the crime,” the affidavit says.

McLachlan notified Durango police of the situation on May 29.

On May 30, Bernazzani submitted a second confession letter that went into greater detail on how she stole the money, along with a more accurate estimate of how much money she stole.

Among the methods used, Bernazzani would write checks to herself or one of her business accounts by using a signature stamp or forging a dentist’s signature. She would then enter the amount in QuickBooks as an expense to a dental lab or supply company.

Bernazzani also used a dentist’s credit card to pay for personal bills or online shopping, entering her charges as a bulk payment to a dental supply company, the arrest affidavit says.

The affidavit doesn’t say how long Bernazzani worked at the dental office or what her job title was.

Court records show Dental Associates of the Southwest has hired an accounting firm to complete a forensic audit to confirm the loss suffered by the dental office.

Bernazzani was arrested on suspicion of theft between $100,000 and $1 million, a Class 3 felony. Bernazzani also has a Facebook page for her work as a real estate agent.

Bernazzani is out on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond, which means she did not have to post any money to get out of jail but could be ordered to pay the full amount if she violates the terms of her release.

Bernazzani’s attorney, Jaye, filed a motion Thursday to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office, saying District Attorney Christian Champagne is a patient of Dental Associates of the Southwest.

“It goes without saying that neither a prospective juror or a presiding judge would be allowed to sit in this particular matter were they patients of the dentists,” Jaye wrote.

“To lower the bar for the prosecutor seems anomalous, and not in the furtherance of a transparent judicial system.”

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Steamboat CO police prepare dentist embezzlement case


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Alpine patients have been entrusted to Dr. Paul Andrews for care.

Steamboat Springs Police Department detectives expect to hand over a downtown embezzlement case to the Routt County District Attorney’s Office by the end of the week, Detective Dave Kleiber said Tuesday.

Detectives are investigating $30,000 to $40,000 reported missing from Alpine Family Den­tistry.

 An initial report Oct. 27 stated that about $14,000 was missing from the office, and Kleiber said police still are working with victims to tally the full amount of the theft.

Police said they have identified a woman as the suspect, but because she has not been charged with a crime, the Steamboat Pilot & Today is not releasing her name. Kleiber said the woman has hired a lawyer, and he is trying to talk to her again before the case goes to the court.

Calls to Alpine Family Den­tistry go to a message from dentist David Banks, who says that “due to unforeseen circumstances,” he is not offering dental care. A message on Banks’ listed home phone number said the number is disconnected.

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Colorado woman accused of theft from dentist


A Montrose woman is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from a local dental practice over the course of more than a year.

Christine A. Cooper, 43, was summonsed into court Thursday on the felony-4 charge of theft of at least $20,000 and less than $100,000 for alleged conduct between July 2014 and January 2016.

She is accused of taking money from the office of dentist Sharlene Martinson during this period.

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Colorado woman receives deferred sentence in 7k embezzlement


A Craig woman who pleaded guilty recently to two charges of theft from a local dentist’s office received a deferred sentence in Moffat County District Court on Wednesday.

Beverly Jean Kostur, 44, declined to comment during the sentencing portion of her hearing.

Kostur originally faced 23 felony charges of theft and forgery for embezzling as much as $7,200 from dentist John Ilko of Craig in separate incidents dating back to January 2003, according to court documents.

Chief District Judge Michael O’Hara ruled that Kostur’s felony charge of theft be deferred after completing four years of successful probation. The misdemeanor theft charge was not subject to deferment. She also must pay restitution.

The ruling reflects the terms of a plea agreement.

Sally Ilko, dentist John Ilko’s wife, who attended Wednesday’s hearing, said it was a “sad” ordeal, because Kostur had been like family at the dentist’s office.

Kostur is no longer an employee there.

“It’s sad,” Sally Ilko said tearfully.

“She was like our daughter. She was loved by all of us.”

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Colorado woman makes bail after being accused of embezzling $30k from non-profit dental clinic


The defendant accused of embezzling more than $30,000 from two local charities is free on bond.

Robin McKenzie, 36, was released from the Moffat County Public Safety Center jail Tuesday on a personal recognizance bond that her attorney, Kris Hammond, had requested that afternoon.

The District Attorney’s Office did not object and McKenzie was released at 6:30 p.m.

McKenzie had originally been held on a $20,000 bond after she was arrested on misdemeanor and felony charges of theft.

She is suspected of embezzling more $30,000 from the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition and more than $300 from Moffat County Partners.

A personal recognizance bond has no financial penalty attached for not appearing in court, but a warrant for arrest would be issued along with the filing of new charges, Chief Deputy District Attorney David Waite said.

“One of the reasons you have a bond is to make sure a person shows up for a court date,” Waite said. “In this case, we had no real concern the defendant wouldn’t appear. It’s a pretty safe bet (McKenzie) isn’t a risk. She has no access to the kinds of accounts that got her into trouble before.”

McKenzie is due in district court on June 17 for an arraignment.

Waite said the McKenzie’s assets, to the extent there are any, are still frozen.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said McKenzie’s release should not be a problem, nor an issue the police have any impact on.

“It is a judge’s discretion to release someone on (a personal recognizance) bond, and if they saw fit to release (McKenzie), that’s their call,” Vanatta said. “Our part of the system is to investigate the cases and make arrests. After that, the decision’s out of our hands and left to the judicial system.

“I don’t think (McKenzie) is a risk to the community.”

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Colorado woman pleads guilty to embezzling


People v. Lisa Morales-Campbell,

Montrose Court Case No. 12CR248 One December 2, 2015,

Lisa Morales-Campbell pleaded guilty (Alford plea) to Theft as a class 1 misdemeanor for stealing cash from the Community Dental Clinic. The district court entered judgment against her, and Ms. Morales-Campbell stands convicted of Theft. The conviction is not subject to later dismissal. The district court ordered Ms. Morales-Campbell to pay restitution to the Community Dental Clinic in the amount of $25,000.00, and to pay certain costs incurred by the Clinic. Judge Herron also ordered Ms. Morales-Campbell to write a letter of apology to the victim within 30 days.

The participation from Community Dental Clinic was essential to this case. The Clinic expended a great amount of time and effort in providing detailed information to law enforcement and to this Office for the prosecution of this case. This case involved the theft of cash receipts from the Clinic, and stands as a reminder to all businesses and organizations of the need for proper accounting controls and systems to avoid being victimized. Under new leadership, Community Dental Clinic has completely changed its way of doing business and is prepared to continue to serve the Montrose area.

Any business that would like to learn more about effective accounting controls can contact the Office of the District Attorney or their local law enforcement agency.

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Plea agreement reached in Colorado dental office embezzlement; 90-day sentence. Had previous record. Now teaching children.


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Charged with stealing more than $23,000, Jessica Hernandez, 32, of Cortez fought back tears June 17 during a plea agreement.

As Chief District Judge Doug Walker read the three-page plea agreement in open court, Hernandez wrestled to keep her emotions hidden as she stood next to her attorney, Kelly McCabe. During the proceeding, Hernandez apologized to the victim, and told Walker that she agreed to the plea in order to move forward with her life.

“I’m guilty, and I want to make that right,” said Hernandez, also known as Jessica Tozer.

Court records show Hernandez was officially charged with theft Feb. 19 for embezzling $23,682.40 from San Juan Dental. Records indicate the embezzlement spanned a four-year period starting in September 2008.

Jason Smith, who owns the dental practice, said Hernandez was a front-office employee. Smith discovered the crime by chance, he said.

“I had a patient bring in a credit-card receipt who wanted a cash receipt,” he explained. “That’s how I initially discovered the embezzlement.”

According to Smith, Hernandez facilitated the crime by entering patients’ cash payments as credit-card transactions. After his own two-day investigation, Smith discovered widespread corruption and fired Hernandez immediately, he said. Smith later learned that Hernandez was on probation for related crimes while employed at the dental clinic, he said.

“Ms. Hernandez has a prior history, and I want to make sure the community is aware,” Smith said. “I’m not happy. I wouldn’t recommend her to future employers.”

The plea agreement included full restitution, which was made at the proceedings, but Smith said he is still unsatisfied.

“Ms. Hernandez needs help,” he said after the plea agreement. “I hope the consequences are stiff enough to help her turn things around.”

A Class 4 felony, the theft charge carries a maximum six-year prison sentence, a maximum $500,000 fine and up to three years of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Aug. 8.

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Hernandez sentenced to 90 days

Cortez woman was allowed to see her son off to his very first day of school on Wednesday after she was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail for embezzlement.

Wearing a black dress at her sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Jessica Hernandez sobbed continuously while reading a multiple-page statement before District Court Judge Doug Walker. During her near 20-minute declaration, Hernandez repeatedly referred to the impact and consequences that her felonious actions will have on her husband of 10 years, their six- and three-year-old sons, and the rest of her family.

“I don’t want them to pay for my mistakes,” she said. “I’m concerned about the destruction to their lives.”

Facing a maximum six-year prison sentence, Hernandez was ordered to serve 90 days in the county jail plus three years of probation, complete 200 hours of community service and pen a letter of apology to the victim. In granting some leniency, Judge Walker ordered Hernandez to report to the Montezuma County Jail at 10 p.m. on Sept. 3, to start her three-month sentence behind bars.

“There are several collateral victims in this case, but you’re the person that made these victims,” Walker told Hernandez.

“You took advantage of your position of trust for pure greed,” he concluded.

In June, the 32-year-old mother of two pled guilty to felony embezzlement for stealing nearly $24,000 from a local dentist over a four-year span. On Tuesday, Judge Walker said he was disappointed to hear Hernandez repeatedly refer to the devastation she caused to her family rather than the harm to the real victim, Dr. Jason Smith.

“It was a well-thought-out sentence,” Smith said following the proceeding. “I think justice has been served.”

Records show Hernandez was officially charged with theft on Feb. 19, after Smith discovered the crime by chance. According to Smith, Hernandez facilitated the offense by entering patients’ cash payments as credit card transactions. Following his own investigation, Smith discovered widespread corruption and fired Hernandez immediately, he said.

District Attorney Will Furse recommended a two-year jail term, citing Hernandez initiated the embezzlement scheme from the dental clinic while on probation for a similar offense that occurred while she worked at a nursing home. In the previous case, Hernandez embezzled some $14,000, Furse said.

“The fraud and theft evident in both cases reveals an ongoing pattern of felonious activity practiced with manipulative skill and frequency,” Furse said.

In addressing the court, Smith spoke briefly that he tried to give Hernandez a second chance, but he unfortunately wasn’t rewarded for his effort. He said the ordeal has since “tarnished his reputation” as a local businessman.

“My customers are concerned for their own financial security,” Smith said.

Defense attorney Kelly McCabe accused prosecutors of seeking a “high-level conviction” against his client. Requesting a two-year probationary term, McCabe said his client didn’t present a risk to the community.

“This is not a sweetheart deal,” he said. “My client has suffered tremendously.”

With full restitution made in the case, Hernandez, who is also known as Jessica Tozer, said she knows she was wrong, and she must accept that the community has labeled her a thief.

“This case has literally brought me to my knees,” she read in her closing statements to Judge Walker. “I have hit rock bottom, but I want to climb back up.”

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Kemper hires felon to instruct children

Last fall, Jessica Hernandez was serving a 90-day jail sentence for theft. Today, she’s helping to shape young minds as a paraprofessional at Kemper Elementary.

Facing a maximum six-year prison sentence, Hernandez was ordered in August 2013 to 90 days in the county jail, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and write a letter of apology to the victim. She is on probation for two more years.

The 33-year-old mother of two pleaded guilty to felony theft after embezzling nearly $24,000 from a local dentist over a four-year span.

In August 2014, Hernandez was hired as a paraprofessional at Kemper Elementary School, where she earns $12,817 helping to provide instruction and support for classroom teachers. Her employment was rubber-stamped without discussion by the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 school board on Aug. 19.

“In order to promote a respectful and trusting relationship with our employees, the district will never discuss any personal or private issues of our employees’ lives with the media,” said Re-1 Superintendent Alex Carter.

School district responds

The Cortez Journal asked Carter, Kemper Elementary Principal Angela Gaylon and all seven members of the school board school to list concerns about Hernandez serving as a role model to students, her role as a paraprofessional, her qualifying credentials and the results of a background check, if conducted.

Carter was the only official to reply. Carter said Hernandez was deemed to be the “most qualified candidate” selected by a Kemper hiring team as a reading intervention paraprofessional.

“In this paraprofessional capacity, Mrs. Hernandez provides direct intervention services to 30 to 40 students per week to support their progress toward meeting their reading goals,” Carter wrote in an email.

“While Mrs. Hernandez’s service with the district is just beginning, her performance and attitude thus far have been exemplary,” Carter wrote. “She has already made a strong connection with the students and staff at Kemper Elementary.”

Carter said district paraprofessionals were not required to hold certifications or credentials. The only qualifications, he said, were a high school diploma and an ability to pass a state-approved test of basic literacy and math.

The embezzlement case

Court records show that Hernandez skimmed more than 100 customer payments from the dental clinic by entering patients’ cash payments as credit card transactions. The individual payments – many from the same customers – ranged from a low of $7 to a high of $2,063. In September 2011, records show, Hernandez embezzled 15 payments, nearly one every other day.

When imposing the sentence last year, Chief District Court Judge Walker said he was disappointed that Hernandez failed to address the harm to the actual victim. During her 20-minute address to the court, Hernandez repeatedly alluded to the devastation she caused to her family.

“You took advantage of your position of trust for pure greed,” Walker told Hernandez.

Her punishment and apology

In connection to her felony conviction, court records from the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office mistakenly reported that Hernandez completed her 200 hours of community service at the Cortez Library in May. Montezuma County Undersheriff Lynda Carter confirmed that the community service hours instead were performed at Lewis Elementary. A school official verified that Hernandez completed 228 hours and 35 minutes of useful public service at the rural school north of Cortez,

Hernandez wrote an apology letter to Dr. Jason Smith at San Juan Dental last October.

“I wish with everything in me that I could take back my actions,” she wrote.

Contained in the letter, Hernandez apologized for her “dishonesty,” and admitted that her “selfish” acts caused Smith, his family and his business “hurt, pain and anger.”

“I hope with time you can forgive me,” Hernandez concluded.

Previous run-ins with law

District Attorney Will Furse argued for a two-year jail term at sentencing last year, saying that Hernandez initiated the embezzlement scheme while on probation for a similar offense. In the previous case, Hernandez agreed to repay $14,385 after falsifying an administrative license, Furse said.

“The fraud and theft evident in both cases reveals an ongoing pattern of felonious activity practiced with manipulative skill and frequency,” Furse said.

In 2008, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies launched an investigation into Hernandez while she was working at The Valley Inn in Mancos. Court records reveal she was later charged with felony forgery of a government-issued document, possession of a forged instrument, criminal impersonation and misdemeanor unauthorized practice at a nursing home. In June 2009, Hernandez was granted a deferred adjudication and sentence on one felony count and granted probation on the misdemeanor charge. The remaining two felony charges were dismissed.

Carter said all district employees were subject to Colorado Bureau of Investigations criminal background checks, but he did not indicate the results of CBI’s report into Hernandez.

“Our primary responsibility to the community is to ensure the safety and welfare of our students and staff,” said Carter. “The district screens all candidates to eliminate any from consideration who have a history of violence or any indication that they are unfit to work with children.”

Carter also said, “The work we do at school offers an incredible opportunity for redemption through community service. There is no more honorable occupation than that of helping children improve their abilities to read, write, and do math.”

The Journal attempted contact Hernandez, also known as Jessica Lynn Tozer, for comment. A recorded message indicated her listed telephone number was no longer in service.