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Dunes embezzler headed to prison

Posted: Friday, Oct 5th, 2012

DENVER — Lydia L. White, 49, formerly of Hooper, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn to serve 33 months for embezzling money from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. 

Judge Blackburn then ordered White to pay the National Park Service $738,471 in restitution. Once released from prison, the defendant will serve three years on supervised release. White appeared at the sentencing in custody.  She was remanded following the hearing.

White was indicted by a federal grand jury on October 5, 2011. She pled guilty to theft of government property and money laundering before Judge Blackburn on May 4, 2012. White was sentenced on September 21.

According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, on January 10, 2011, a National Park Service budget technician working at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Alamosa County, Colorado, was reconciling third party draft checks when she noticed that two checks had not been entered into the Park’s vendor log.  Upon inquiry, the technician discovered that the two checks had been written to Richard White.  Further inquiry revealed that two other checks had also been written to Richard White, although the check had been entered into the Park’s vendor log as having been written to other legitimate Park vendors.  Richard White is the husband of Lydia White, an employee of the National Park Service who worked in the office and whose responsibility it was to pay Park expenses. 

An investigation ensued which ultimately revealed that from January 2007 through January 2011, Lydia White had written over 870 checks totaling $731,010 to her husband. 

The investigation also revealed that Lydia White had made a number of unauthorized purchases using the credit card she was issued by the National Park Service.  The charges she made included purchases for wood flooring for her home, women’s clothing, fencing and a stay at the Pagosa Springs Resort.  The total of unauthorized purchases on the card came to $7,461.

National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “The fraud and embezzlement committed by this former employee was an affront to taxpayers, to National Park Service employees and to all public servants who do their jobs honorably and honestly every day. The sentence imposed sends a strong, clear signal that abuse of the public trust cannot and will not be tolerated. I commend the NPS employees who detected and investigated this fraudulent act. As a result of this incident we have taken steps to further tighten our controls over financial transactions.”

“Let this be a reminder to others, there are serious consequences for embezzling money,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Lilia Ruiz of the IRS CI, Denver Field Division. “IRS CI, along with our law enforcement partners, will make sure they are brought to justice.”

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