A Delta woman whose attorney reportedly said she was duped into criminal conduct by an older, romantic partner will serve four years of probation for her role in embezzling money from Western Area Power Administration— a scheme uncovered by “alert” WAPA employees in Montrose.
Maranda Fraze, 27, was charged in February with theft of government property pleaded guilty on July 1. She was sentenced on Thursday to four years of probation and ordered to pay more than $194,000 in restitution, joint and severally with any others who are ultimately convicted.
Federal court documents for her case do not identify specific codefendants. According to a news release, seven others were involved and Fraze was “the first to face charges.”
Fraze’s case file refers to a “JN,” who allegedly submitted fake invoices to her that were paid with WAPA’s government purchase cards. Government purchase cards are supposed to be used for goods and services related to maintaining the electrical grid.
Instead, that money was funneled from Fraze to JN, her plea agreement states.
According to the document, Fraze registered with the Colorado Secretary of State a company called MDF Supply, allegedly at the behest of JN, a WAPA contract employee. Fraze then submitted invoices for goods and services purportedly purchased from MDF Supply. She read off invoice numbers, part types and costs when contacted by WAPA; process government purchase card numbers through Square software on her phone, and tell JN what was left after the processing fee. At JN’s direction, she would then put that amount in JN’s account, or remit it to third parties at JN’s instruction, her plea documents say.
“At no time did MDF Supply actually purchase any bonafide goods or provide any bonafide goods to WAPA,” Fraze’s sentencing agreement document says.
In all, Fraze ran 63 such transactions, totaling more than $194,000. JN allegedly received the lion’s share of that, while Fraze pocketed more than $25,000 as her “commission.” She did so knowing the purchases were not legitimate and that “she and JN were stealing government money,” prosecutors wrote.
The multi-party scheme overall diverted almost $1 million from legitimate government purposes, according to the news release.
A former WAPA contractor allegedly “masterminded” the scheme and enlisted Fraze and others.
Fraze apologized for her role, admitting full responsibility. At sentencing, her attorney reportedly described her as a “pawn.” A pre-sentencing report states Fraze was “manipulated by the much older, married WAPA contractor to commit the crime, due to being involved in an intimate relationship with him,” according to the news release.
The pre-sentencing report itself was listed as “restricted” in court records and could not be viewed.
The news release also said the court determined Fraze is not a danger to the public and that probation was appropriate under the circumstances of the case.
In addition to probation and paying restitution, Fraze must complete 50 hours of useful public service within the first year of her sentence.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
This article has been edited since print publication.