Washington woman suspected of defrauding Steamboat company out of $157,000 | SteamboatToday.com

Washington woman suspected of defrauding Steamboat company out of $157,000

Colleen Lucille Stark

— A 63-year-old Washington woman has been arrested and charged with defrauding a Steamboat Springs consulting company out of more than $157,000.

Colleen Lucille Stark has been charged with Class 3 felony theft, Class 3 felony computer crime and Class 6 felony criminal impersonation. She was booked into the Routt County Jail on Monday, and her bond was set at $20,000.

The charges relate to incidents in January and February, when someone impersonated HIMS Consulting Group President Brian Parnell and convinced the company's controller to send two wire transfers totaling $157,438.20. According to the HIMS Consulting Group website, the Steamboat-based company works with contractors to provide information technology services to the healthcare industry.

According to Stark's arrest affidavit, the HIMS controller received an email from an address that was very similar to Parnell's. Parnell's actual email address ends in .com, and the end of the email address received by the controller ended in .co.

The fraudulent email was crafted to appear as if it were part of a larger thread of emails between Parnell and another HIMS employee.

The first fraudulent email instructed the controller to transfer $48,301.20 to a specified account. The controller replied to the fraudulent email confirming the funds had been wired.

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A week later, the controller received another fraudulent email instructing her to wire another $109,137.00 to another account. The controller again sent a confirmation to the fraudulent email address showing the money had been sent.

A week later, the controller received another fraudulent email instructing her to wire $214,307. The controller initiated the transfer and, this time, manually typed in Parnell's email address. When Parnell received the email, he called the controller and told her he knew nothing about the wire transfers.

The controller was able to stop the final wire transfer.

Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Stuart Hutton investigated the fraud and obtained a court order for bank account records connected with the wire transfers.

According to the warrant, police traced the bank account to Stark. All the stolen money had been withdrawn, and the account was closed on Feb. 13, three weeks after the first wire transfer was sent.

Hutton said Wednesday they contacted law enforcement in Washington and arranged to have Stark picked up and extradited to Routt County. According to Stark's identification, she is from Federal Way, Washington.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland