BRIGHTON - The now-former president of the Greater Brighton Chamber of Commerce forged and stole checks, made hundreds of personal purchases on work credit cards and falsified invoices in a scheme that netted her nearly $100,000 in three years, according to court documents obtained by 9Wants to Know.
Holly Hansen, the wife of Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen, allegedly stole $99,242.86 from the chamber – and covered her tracks by bilking the City of Brighton out of $112,295.72 that ended up in the organization’s bank accounts, according to the documents.
Investigators determined that Holly Hansen made nearly 800 unauthorized credit card purchases, forged or stole 32 checks that were deposited in her personal bank accounts, made multiple direct transfers from the organization’s bank accounts to her personal accounts and even reaped a performance bonus in 2016 that was based on bogus financial reports for the chamber documents.
She used as much as $19,000 to cover things such as tuition, lessons and travel expenses for her daughter, a cheerleader, according to the records.
After Hansen was confronted by members of the chamber’s board, she agreed to repay $100,000 to the group – but only if the organization’s leaders didn’t press criminal charges, according to the documents.
Instead, the chairman of the chamber’s board, Lawrence Barnaby, reported the financial discrepancies to Brighton police, according to an affidavit for her arrest filed Monday in Adams County District Court. Hansen, 44, was formally charged this week with 76 counts of theft, forgery and unauthorized use of a financial transaction device.
She turned herself in to Federal Heights police on Monday and was released after posting $10,000 in bail.
Hansen could not be reached Tuesday at a phone number listed for her and her husband.
A message left at Erik Hansen’s Adams County office on Tuesday afternoon was not returned.
According to the arrest affidavit obtained by 9Wants to Know, Holly Hansen stole the money in a variety of ways during nearly all of her three years at the organization:
- $68,944.22 in 779 unauthorized credit card purchases and seven cash advances. The list includes $19,213.90 in “cheerleading and sports purchases,” $15,005.45 in “department and specialty store purchases,” $7,910.63 in “travel and lodging purchases,” and $6,160.92 in “grocery store purchases.”
- $14,136.52 in 32 forged checks that were deposited into Hansen’s personal bank accounts.
- $9,251.22 in eight checks made out to the chamber that Hansen allegedly stole and deposited into her personal bank accounts or cashed.
- $3,638 in a performance bonus paid to Hansen in 2016 based on what are now believed to be falsified reports of the chamber’s financial situation.
- $2,772.70 in direct bank transfers from chamber accounts to Hansen’s personal accounts.
- $500 in a check written to “cash.”
At the same time, Hansen allegedly filed 22 invoices that were either forged or misrepresented to the city, leading to payments of $112,295.72 to the chamber that the organization wasn’t entitled to. The money came in the form of grants from the city’s lodging tax that were supposed to cover legitimate chamber projects. However, according to the affidavit, some invoices were altered, and at least four were in the names of companies that apparently don’t exist, including Sundog Design & Printing in Westminster, Green Couch Design in Thornton and Denver, and Storage Solutions of Independence, Mo.
The financial improprieties didn’t stop there, according to the affidavit: Hansen also allegedly forged another 15 checks, totaling $34,582.43, that were paid to the chamber’s credit card accounts to cover some of her personal purchases; and she allegedly repeatedly altered the chamber’s books to show that the organization had more money than it actually did.
In addition, Hansen allegedly forged more than 100 other checks – signing the names of board members – that were “actually for legitimate purchases,” according to the affidavit. It said that board members believe “forged those checks out of ease, not because she was gaining something from it.”
According to the affidavit, the first unauthorized purchase was made Jan. 8, 2014 – just over a month after Hansen was hired as the chamber’s president and chief executive officer. The last one cleared Dec. 23, 2016, the day after she resigned in a meeting where she was confronted about discrepancies in the organization’s financial records.
The alleged scheme came to light in late 2016 when a board member noticed a discrepancy in a financial statement Hansen presented, according to the affidavit. At that meeting, the board agreed to table the issue and have the group’s treasurer, Kevin Kildow, look into it.
After Kildow began studying the financial reports for the organization, he discovered “large discrepancies in the records,” according to the affidavit.
On Dec. 22, 2016, Kildow, along with the group’s chairman, Barnaby, and vice-chair, Lynn Ann Sheets, confronted Hansen.
She initially claimed she’d mistakenly used the chamber’s credit card for personal expenses a couple of times. But when she was pressed, according to the affidavit, she admitted to using the credit card for personal purchases as well as to making unauthorized financial transfers and altering the group’s financial statements.
At the time, Hansen claimed “this activity went on for about four to six months.”
At that point, Hansen submitted her resignation and said she would take money from her retirement account to repay the group, according to the affidavit. She wrote out a statement that read: “In light of my actions that compromised the financial position of the Great(er) Brighton Chamber of Commerce, I agree to repay all misused funds in a timely manner.”
She agreed to meet with the group’s administrators a week later to work out an agreement to repay the missing money, according to the affidavit.
Kildow then undertook an examination of six months of financial records to determine how much money Hansen owed the chamber. He quickly concluded the theft could have exceeded $100,000.
In addition to the credit card charges, he found that checks “appeared to be written to potentially fake companies” that money was missing from the petty cash fund, and that falsified invoices were submitted to the city.
When he and other board members met with Hansen on Dec. 29, she provided spreadsheets purported to show what she owed the chamber – but it was “a mere fraction” of the thefts that had already been identified, according to the affidavit.
She at one point claimed she owed the organization $22,000.
Before the meeting ended, Hansen “informed them she was willing and able to place $100,000 into an escrow account within three days to be used to reimburse the chamber under the condition that the chamber not press charges against her.”
A few days later, Barnaby reported the allegations to police.
Hansen was paid about $67,000 as the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, according to the documents.
Erik Hansen is the former mayor of Thornton and was elected as Adams County commissioner in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
Holly Hansen, who previously ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Colorado legislature, is scheduled to be in court Sept. 27 to be formally advised of the charges.
Erik and Holly Hansen have been active in Republican politics in Adams County for years.
Contact 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-871-1862.
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