The former Cortez finance director was sentenced to 30 days in jail, two years of probation and a restitution payment of over $78,000 Thursday after pleading guilty to embezzlement of public property.
Katheryn Moss, 70, pleaded guilty to a Class 5 felony charge of embezzling $63,642 from the city of Cortez between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018.
District Attorney Will Furse said Moss was “quite candid in her remarks” to officials working on the case, which “shed light on her familial experiences and mental health issues.”
Moss admitted her involvement with the embezzlement and “did the right thing in that regard,” Furse said.
The former finance director has no prior criminal record beyond the embezzlement. But the amount of money embezzled and the length of time Moss was involved in the embezzlement is “nothing short of public corruption,” Furse said.
Moss took steps to “destroy evidence” and “cover her tracks,” and the city of Cortez will “never know how much she took,” Furse said. He asked the judge to give Moss 90 days of jail time, the maximum rehabilitation sentence.
“The city of Cortez wished for the highest, most severe punishment available,” Furse said. “I’m not naive to the hardships she will endure, but I believe it to be appropriate.”
Laurie Black, a former utility billing clerk for the city, said she worked for Moss for 27 years.
Black said the judge should give Moss the full three months in jail for the “harm she has done to the city of Cortez, which is literally floundering” financially.
“She needs to set an example,” Black said.
Moss’s attorney, Richard Jaye, said he understood the DA’s position, but noted Moss has been cooperative with Furse and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
“From the beginning, there has been no indication she wasn’t taking full responsibility for her actions,” Jaye said.
Given Moss’s age and her lack of criminal history, Jaye said 90 days in jail would not accomplish anything for the people of Cortez.
“I understand everyone wants their pound of flesh,” he said.
At 70 years old, Moss likely would contract COVID-19 and suffer in jail, Jaye said. Moss is repaying the amount CBI could prove she had taken, and is essentially unemployable for the rest of her life, he said.
Moss has been “physically and emotionally sick” since the start, and the “emotions are sincere – she regrets everything,” Jaye said.
Moss was visibly shaking throughout the hearing.
“She’s had a rough, traumatic life,” though it does not excuse her actions, Jaye said.
In her statement, Moss said she was sorry and “embarrassed and ashamed.”
“I just want to apologize to the city of Cortez employees and Cortez citizens,” she said.
Chief Judge Douglas Walker said “sentencing in these cases is really difficult.”
He acknowledged the harm done to the city of Cortez and its citizens, but noted Moss’s otherwise clean record, save for a traffic violation.
Moss is responsible for repaying at least $14,733.40 to the city of Cortez and $63,642 to Western Surety Co., the insurance company that covered the city’s loss of the embezzled money, within 90 days, though she brought checks with the money owed to the sentencing hearing Thursday.
The $14,000 owed to the city is “nothing to sneeze at in these times,” Walker said.
He gave Moss 30 days in jail, finding that “some jail time is appropriate,” he said.
“Oddly enough, the Montezuma County jail is probably safer than City Market,” Walker said. The county jail has only had one COVID-19 case, and the person was removed within a few hours of the test results, he said.
But Moss chose to serve her time in the Weld County jail, where she has relocated, despite its higher number of COVID-19 cases.
“I have family and support there,” Moss said. “I don’t have anything here.”
Walker said he would need documentation from the Weld County Sheriff’s Office confirming Moss can serve her sentence in the Weld County jail.
If the documentation is acquired, Moss is set to report to the Weld County jail on Nov. 5. Otherwise, she will serve her sentence in the Montezuma County Detention Center.