Donations sought in Farmington embezzlement case

August 30, 2013 • State News

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau has moved to recoup some of the nearly $500,000 it lost in an embezzlement case by asking for donations from people who may have benefited from the scheme.

Police have accused former executive director Debbie Dusenbery of stealing money from the bureau between 2006 and 2012. She committed suicide in Arizona in January after telling police she embezzled money to pay for extravagant trips and other personal expenses.

The bureau has received less than [auth] $50,000 from Dusenbery’s estate, and city councilors suggested earlier this year that the bureau seek donations from those who may have received trips or other gifts from her.

Dick Gerding, the bureau’s attorney, sent letters earlier this month asking for the donations. The city did not reveal how many letters were sent or who might have received the letters, the Daily Times ( reported Friday.

“We don’t want to accuse them of a crime … we want to educate them and ask for a donation,” Farmington City Councilor Jason Sandel said.

Former Farmington police Detective Sgt. Robert Perez investigated the embezzlement and identified several people who may have benefited. He said in a police report that Sgt. Rick Simmons and his wife received round-trip airfare and lodging from Dusenbery, and that Russell Smith, Dusenbery’s former boyfriend, received more than $40,000 to renovate his house.

Police reports also indicate other people traveled extensively with Dusenbery.

No charges were brought against anyone for benefiting from the embezzled funds.

Simmons said he had no idea that Dusenbery was taking money from the bureau. He said he was notified about donating funds to the bureau and the request was being “given the proper consideration.”

“It’s unfair that innocent people were duped,” he said. “The investigation clearly showed that those who were involved had no idea about the things that were going on.”

Gerding has said that if any donations are made, the names of the donors will remain confidential.

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