Embezzlement charges have been dropped against a Coalville woman who allegedly transferred and spent $45,000 from her and her husband's business's escrow account.
Colleen M. Schulte, 51, was charged in the Third District Court in April with a second-degree felony theft charge. Court documents state that on July 25, 2012, Summit County Sheriff's Detective Clint Johnson received a call from Schulte's husband Dean that she had embezzled around $45,000 from their business, High Uintah Taxidermy.
Dean Schulte is the treasurer and a director and shareholder of the company. The company's revenue and operating expenses are deposited from a Zion's Bank escrow account, for which the company maintains written ledgers.
According to the documents, Dean Schulte claimed that Schulte was very familiar with the bookkeeping practices of the company. On May 16, 2012, the escrow account had a balance of $62,949.70, of which $49,610 was retainer money for clients. The remaining $13,339.11 was for payroll, sales tax and profit.
On May 17, 2012, Schulte electronically transferred $35,000 from the escrow fund to a joint Zion's Bank account between her and Dean Schulte. The same day, she transferred $10,000 into a joint Zion's Bank account between her and her daughter.
Schulte then transferred the total of both accounts into her own private account, which she allegedly spent on personal expenses not related to the business.
Summit County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Bates said Judge Ryan Harris dismissed the charges during Schulte's preliminary hearing on Nov. 5. A judge can review a case before a hearing to determine if there is probable cause for the charges, Bates said.
"The judge held that since the company was owned by both Colleen and Dean, it was a marital asset," Bates said. "[Schulte] had the unfettered and unconditional right to invade the assets of the company and do with them what she pleased."
Bates added he never saw Dean Schulte as a victim in this case, adding the case is really a crime against High Uintah Taxidermy's customers, as all of the money spent was held in trust for clients. He added the business survived due to Dean Schulte's "sacrifices."
Schulte said she transferred the funds because she "felt that Mr. Schulte was spending the money in places it wasn't meant to be spent." She added she is "thrilled" that the charges were dismissed.
When asked whether he has seen charges dismissed against defendants during a preliminary hearing, Bates said, "It's not terribly common. In my 10 years here, I've probably seen it happen two to three times."
Bates added he was not surprised by the case dismissal, as he knew it was going to be a close case. Any remedy to the funds that were taken would have to be prompted by a civil action on behalf of High Uintah Taxidermy's customers, he said.