Flaming Gorge Days Organizer Arrested, Accused Of Embezzling More Than $75,000

Jennifer Melvin, former administrator of the Green River Urban Renewal Agency, is accused of stealing more than $75,000 for personal expenses and gambling on horse races.

JT
John Thompson

July 19, 20236 min read

Jennifer Nicole Melvin 7 19 23

Jennifer Melvin, former administrator of the Green River City Urban Renewal Agency and coordinator of the city's annual Flaming Gorge Days, has been arrested and charged with two counts of felony theft in connection with the disappearance of about $77,000.

According to an affidavit filed by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, most of the money was transferred by Melvin out of a URA account and into a Flaming Gorge Days account that Melvin held a debit card for.

The money was then spent on a variety of personal items and at Wyoming Downs, where Melvin held a "player's card." Wyoming Downs is a venue where horse racing is simulcasted.

In mid-June, Flaming Gorge Days, an annual city event, was canceled. The investigation shows that the event's account received several large deposits from event sponsors totaling $24,000 in early 2023. But by May, the account was overdrawn by $345.

That was at about the same time city officials learned the account was overdrawn and Melvin quit showing up for work.

Had Been There Since 2014

Melvin, 50, of Rock Springs, was hired as the Green River URA Main Street Administrator in January 2014. She faces up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines for each charge. The charges were filed July 14. On July 18, Melvin posted a $75,000 surety bond.

The Green River URA is an economic development tool used by municipalities and is practicing and recognized as a Main Street community by Wyoming Main Street and the Wyoming Business Council. Certified Main Street programs are required to have a full-time administrator, board oversight and be engaged with community stakeholders to determine their work.

Wyoming Main Street is a program of the Wyoming Business Council that offers technical assistance and support to communities to practice the Main Street model as a way of revitalizing their downtowns.

The Green River URA does not fall under the supervision of the city of Green River, but the two entities have a memorandum of understanding in place that spells out, among other things, that the board of directors must sign off on expenses and invoices, as does the city.

As part of her duties for the URA and FGD, Melvin was responsible for receiving donations and paying bills for the URA and FGD.  

For 65 years, Flaming Gorge Days has grown to attract national music acts.
For 65 years, Flaming Gorge Days has grown to attract national music acts. (Flaming Gorge Days via Facebook)

The Investigation

According to the affidavit filed July 14, DCI special agents Roy Warren, Russ Schmitt and Dan Allison started the investigation June 6.

In May, Melvin quit coming to work regularly and failed to perform several of her expected duties, including communicating with the city and the business council and conducting meetings for the URA and FGD, the affidavit says.

Because of her lack of communication with the business council, the Green River URA was placed on probation and FGD was canceled because planning had fallen behind schedule and the account was overdrawn.

At this time, City Administrator Reed Clevenger noticed suspicious withdrawals and payments from the FGD account. According to the affidavit, Melvin was taking large amounts of money from the URA and depositing it in the FGD account in an attempt to offset numerous charges and ATM withdrawals at Wyoming Downs.

Other charges were made at supermarkets, a liquor store, gas stations, a hair salon, clothing stores, hotels, Amazon Prime, several other online entertainment sites and many others.

Starting in June 2022, a drastic change in the amount of charges to the FGD account was noticed by the investigators. Further, the investigators noted that several deposits in the amount of about $24,000 came into the FGD account that could have been from legitimate sponsors of the event.

Despite the deposits, the account was overdrawn multiple times.

From June 2022 until May 2023, there were 61 ATM transactions totaling $21,927. Of those transactions, 34 took place at Wyoming Downs off-track betting in Rock Springs.

The investigators contacted Wyoming Downs and learned that Melvin is a regular customer who holds a "player's card," the affidavit states.

Overdraft Fees

There were 216 charges to the FGD account totaling $21,014 which included overdraft fees in the amount of $780 between January 2023 and May 2023 

Melvin had the only debit card issued for the FGD account .

Between the ATM withdrawls and the debit card purchases, a total of $42,942.55 went missing from the FGD account between June 2022 and May 2023, the affidavit alleges, linking this allegation to the first felony charge.

During 2021, the URA account received multiple large deposits, starting with a balance of $62,117.70 and ending the year with a balance of $112,167.50.

Bank statements for the URA in 2022 showed one check written to FGD for $4,500. The year ended with an account balance $76,580.31. This payment stood out because investigators saw no checks made by URA to FGD in 2021 or 2022, the affidavit states.

In 2021 the URA started “Downtown Dollars,” a revitalization program in which consumers could win vouchers provided by the URA to use at Green River businesses after the COVD-19 pandemic. If a business received a voucher as payment they could turn the voucher into the URA and Melvin would reimburse the business using a check.

The checks for Downtown Dollars were written from the URA account. Of them, several were written as "cash" to the business Serenity One in Green River. Several others were written as "cash" with no businesses mentioned.

Between January 2021 and January 2022, these cash transactions with the notation of Serenity One totaled $3,575.

The cash transactions that had no reference to Downtown Dollars or with no business reference totaled $3,827.60 during this time frame. 

One of the special investigators learned that most businesses participating in the promotion submitted vouchers to the URA for reimbursement in the range of $175 to $300 per month.

The checks for “cash” notating Serenity One far exceeded these amounts. From this evidence investigators learned that Melvin likes crystals and stones and Serenity One sells these items.

All of the checks held Melvin's signature. Between the debit card use and fraudulent checks, a total of $34,551.53 was removed from the URA account between January 2021 and May 30, the affidavit alleges, linking this to the second felony charge.

Cowboy State Daily Reporter Clair McFarland contributed to this report.

Share this article

Authors

JT

John Thompson

Features Reporter