Bank theft trials likely

Bank embezzlement suspects make first court appearances

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— The two women accused of embezzling more than $1.2 million from Alpine Bank accounts made their first appearances in Routt County Court on Wednesday, where their attorneys indicated both cases likely are to proceed to trial.

Milner resident Pamela Jean Williams and Terri Dawn Moody Fatka, who lives in unincorporated Routt County, were arrested Feb. 21 while working at the downtown Steamboat Springs branch of Bank of the West. The women are accused of stealing from several accountholders at the Steamboat Springs branch of Alpine Bank, where they previously worked together.

More than a dozen Alpine Bank employees attended the women's separate court appearances Wednesday.

Williams and Fatka are each charged with two counts of theft more than $20,000, a Class 3 felony, and two counts of forgery, a Class 5 felony.

Fatka's attorney, Erick Knaus, indicated he is preparing to take the case to trial by asking the court to set a preliminary hearing.

At a preliminary hearing, a judge hears all the evidence and determines if the prosecution has shown there is enough cause to take the matter to trial. The District Attorney's Office traditionally does not make plea agreements with defendants who have proceeded to a preliminary hearing.

Judge James Garrecht declined to set a preliminary hearing at Fatka's first appearance, instead continuing her case for one week. The discovery process is ongoing, and the prosecution already has received more than 2,800 pages of documents, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said.

Williams, who is represented by Charles Feldmann, waived her right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday. Garrecht bound her case to Routt County District Court, where she will next be seen by Judge Shelley Hill, who also has been assigned Fatka's case.

"It's such a low burden of proof that's required," Feldmann said. "There's just no reason for us to do a preliminary hearing."

Police say the suspects forged "advice of charge" forms to steal $1.2 million from Alpine Bank. The forms are internal bank documents used to keep track of and balance withdrawals when account holders do not have their checkbooks and don't want to use a counter check.

At Alpine Bank, at least 95 of those forms traced to Williams and Fatka were used to draw more than $828,000 from a single account, according to arrest warrants for the women. A second victim alleged bank employees used at least 38 advice of charge forms to withdraw $96,400 from his account.

Fatka and Williams were released from Routt County Jail on $20,000 bond Feb. 21, the same day they were arrested. Neither woman entered a plea Wednesday.

The District Attorney's Office has not decided whether to join the two cases if both proceed to trial, St. James said. Williams' attorney said he would probably oppose such a move because there's differing levels of alleged "responsibility" between the two women.

According to sworn police affidavits, Williams is suspected of forging 35 documents totaling $133,900 between June 30, 2005, and Nov. 23, 2007. Fatka is suspected of stealing $816,015 through 113 documents forged between April 11, 2005, and Jan. 3, 2008.

"These cases are not the same by any means," Feldmann said.

Fatka is due to appear in Routt County Court at 2 p.m. April 16. Williams is due to appear in Routt County District Court at 1 p.m. May 5.

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