A former employee of an insurance agency in the Wood River Valley is scheduled to face a jury trial on Tuesday for a felony charge of grand theft that allegedly occurred between 2016 and 2018.
Charlotte Sheppard, 43, was charged in October 2018 after her employer, Redgy J. Christensen—owner of Farmers Insurance Agency in the Wood River Valley—noticed that funds were missing from one of the agency’s bank accounts that temporarily pays insurance premiums for certain policies while customers’ checks are being processed.
In a preliminary hearing on Jan. 29 in 5th District Magistrate Court, Christensen testified that he noticed discrepancies in the account in early May 2018. He testified that he found $3,700 of insurance bills paid from the company’s account, with no checks from clients to reimburse the paid bills.
Christensen testified that he found at least six clients, all either family members or friends of Sheppard, who had had their insurance bills paid through the account, without delivering a corresponding check. Sheppard, whom Christensen said he considered a “close, personal friend,” was placed on administrative leave while he further looked into account activity.
According to Christensen, in an exit interview on May 22, 2018, Sheppard said, “I’m not one to beat around the bush, I f---ed you.” When Christensen asked why she had done this, Sheppard allegedly told him that she always took care of her children (at least three of the insurance accounts paid belonged to her daughter and two of her children’s fiances, according to Christensen).
In addition, Christensen testified that Sheppard had received roughly $10,000 in paycheck advancements during the time that she was employed as an office manager between July 2015 and May 2018. At the time of her termination of employment in May 2018, Sheppard still owed about $5,000 in advance paychecks, Christensen testified.
At the Jan. 29 preliminary hearing, Magistrate Judge Daniel Dolan found sufficient evidence for the case to be prosecuted as a felony in District Court. At a pretrial conference on Aug. 26, prosecutor Matt Fredback and Sheppard’s attorney, Anthony Valdez, agreed that the case would likely go to trial next week.
In total, Sheppard is alleged to owe about $8,700 to her former employer. If convicted, she would face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000, plus possible restitution to her former employer. A jury trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.