Flannery accepts plea bargain

Former Habitat director also faces charges in Rio Blanco County

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Shelly Flannery

— The former executive director of Routt County Habitat for Humanity accepted a plea agreement with open sentencing Friday in Routt County District Court.

Hayden resident Rochelle "Shelly" Flannery pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of criminal attempt to commit theft greater than $20,000, a Class 4 felony. She originally faced a Class 3 felony theft charge for stealing as much as $72,000 from the nonprofit organization during a six-month period.

Flannery committed the thefts by depositing pre-signed checks intended for vendors into her personal bank accounts and by stealing Safeway grocery cards intended as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity.

The embezzlement from Habitat was discovered when Flannery's former employer, the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, accused her of stealing from that nonprofit organization to pay personal bills. Flannery allegedly charged $7,000 of personal expenses, including her private cell phone, to the historical society, and she took $7,300 in small bills and checks, which she later repaid.

Felony charges in connection with the alleged theft were filed Thursday in Rio Blanco County. Flannery is charged with Class 4 felony theft of $2,000 to $20,000, and Class 5 felony forgery, according to court officials.

Before working for Habitat for Humanity and the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, Flannery served as the Moffat County Tourism Association director for a year and a half, resigning in January 2008. A Moffat County investigation turned up nothing suspicious, the Craig Daily Press reported earlier this month.

Flannery's plea agreement for the Routt County case made no stipulations on sentencing, except that she pay restitution to Habitat for Humanity and write a letter of apology, Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle said.

She could face two to six years in prison, followed by three years of mandatory parole, and fines of as much as $250,000, Judge Shelley Hill said. If Flannery had been found guilty of the original felony theft charge, which was dropped as part of the plea agreement, she would have faced four to 12 years in prison.

Flannery was never arrested in connection with the case. Charges were filed in October after an investigation by the Steamboat Springs Police Department. Her sentence will be handed down in March, after a pre-sentence investigation by the probation department.

Hill disclosed during Friday's court hearing that she had a potential conflict of interest with the case, as she served on Habitat's board of directors about 10 years ago and was the volunteer coordinator for its first house in Routt County.

Neither side objected to Hill continuing with the case. Flannery said she was fine with her sentence being left entirely up to Hill, because its terms were not negotiated in her agreement with the District Attorney's Office.

Routt County Habitat for Humanity since has hired a new executive director, Tommi Weeden, and was reimbursed by its insurance company for the losses attributed to Flannery.

Flannery is due to appear for sentencing at 10 a.m. March 18 in Routt County District Court. She will make her first appearance in Rio Blanco County Court at 11 a.m. Feb. 27.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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