Crime

Woman fired for misspending in Fort Worth now accused of theft in Colorado

Mugshot of Elizabeth Smith Carmichael from her Jan. 17 arrest in Colorado.
Mugshot of Elizabeth Smith Carmichael from her Jan. 17 arrest in Colorado. Grand Gazette

The former executive director of Fort Worth’s Crime Prevention Resource Center — whose alleged misspending led to her firing and the nonprofit agency’s closure — now stands accused of stealing almost a half-million dollars from a Colorado ranch where she worked.

Elizabeth Carmichael, who previously went by the last names of Faeth and Smith, surrendered in January to Colorado authorities on a warrant accusing her of felony theft, the Star-Telegram has learned. She was released on $20,000 bail.

Carmichael, 47, is accused of stealing $451,755 from the Bear Mountain Ranch, where she worked as a bookkeeper and manager from 2009 to 2012.

The 10,000-acre ranch, located in the Rocky Mountains of northwestern Colorado, offered hunting excursions and vacation lodging. The ranch has since been sold.

Carmichael, who now lives in Lubbock, referred questions to her Steamboat Springs attorney, Chris Hammond, when reached by phone Thursday.

Both Hammond and Carmichael’s civil attorney, Sherri Sweers, declined to comment on the case.

Latest allegations

Carmichael had begun working for the ranch in 2006. In 2009, she and her employers, Anne and John Draper, also formed a meat-selling business called Bear Mountain Bison, according to a Colorado arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Star-Telegram.

The Drapers told police they became suspicious in August 2012 after a $50,000 check from the meat business account that was written to them bounced.

The couple told investigators they began looking into the ranch and meat businesses’ accounts and discovered an American Express Plum account had been opened without their consent that was being paid for by the Bear Mountain Ranch.

The Drapers fired Carmichael and her husband, John “Britt” Carmichael, the ranch’s hunting sales and marketing person, as more discrepancies were revealed. Britt Carmichael was never arrested in the case.

Between 2007 and August 2012, the Drapers allege that the Carmichaels used company credit cards to purchase items ranging from groceries to liquor to vacations.

Other Big Mountain employees told investigators that they had seen evidence that Elizabeth Carmichael was stealing money and had tried to warn the Drapers.

The employees alleged Carmichael took control of the accounting books about the third week of every month, sending them to a certified public accountant in Colleyville to help manipulate the numbers to make the books look better before they were shown to the Drapers.

The Colleyville CPA, a friend of Carmichael since college, told investigators that she only helped Carmichael figure meat prices and was never asked to help do anything “criminal” with the books, the affidavit states.

The CPA was not identified.

An employee also told investigators that Carmichael insisted on depositing cash brought into the business in the bank, but then would return with bank slips showing a lesser amount had been deposited, the affidavit states.

Another certified accountant, hired by the Drapers to try to reconcile the accounts after Carmichael’s firing, told investigators that he saw evidence that Carmichael had cooked the books to make it appear as if Bear Mountain Bison was making money when, in fact, the company was losing money “hand over fist.”

Fort Worth scandal

Carmichael had served as executive director of the city’s Crime Prevention Resource Center (CPRC) until being fired in October 2004.

At the time, CPRC administered Fort Worth’s Safe City Program, Project Safe Neighborhood and the Crime Stoppers Program. The city contributed about $235,000 to the agency, which came from the Crime Control and Prevention District and the city’s general fund.

Her firing came after an internal investigation found she had charged up to $15,000 on an agency credit card for personal items like clothing and alcohol.

Her then-attorney, Art Brender, had argued that the expenditures were known about and approved by the CPRC’s board.

A subsequent city audit of the agency, requested by then-Police Chief Ralph Mendoza, cited poor accounting controls and management practices and a lack of adequate board oversight.

In a two-year review of credit card transactions, auditors uncovered almost $100,000 in personal and questionable expenditures, the majority made by Carmichael.

That includes purchases for tanning, nail salon and day spa visits, veterinary care, gym membership, bars/clubs and liquor, resorts, hotels and ski lodges.

Auditors found that the executive committee president, Laura Moriarty, allowed Carmichael a monthlong visit to Mexico for “Spanish immersion” that resulted in $6,286 in salary and expenses being charged to the Crime Control and Prevention District.

The trip, auditors concluded, “was, in reality, a vacation to Mexico with her children.”

Agency closes

In addition to Carmichael’s firing, the scandal led Moriarty and treasurer John McInnis to step down from the executive committee and later resign from the agency’s board of directors.

By March of 2005, the CPRC had decided to shut down.

“There’s a variety of reasons,” explained Craig Lemmon, president of the executive board, in a Star-Telegram article about the closure. “Number one — the CPRC name got a little tarnished. The CPRC image was hurt, and when everything was said and done, all the powers that be felt it was better to try something new.”

A new nonprofit agency, the Safe City Commission, took over operation of many of the programs run by CPRC, including Crime Stoppers and Safe City.

No criminal charges were ever sought against Carmichael because she reimbursed the agency’s money.

In the Colorado case, she faces up to 12 years in prison and a $750,000 fine if convicted.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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