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El Paso, Teller County DA’s office works to educate public on financial crimes

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- At any given time, the El Paso and Teller County District Attorney's Office is typically working on 150 crimes involving money.

"Economic crimes that affect some of the most vulnerable members of our community on a daily basis. Particularly, our elderly that are too often taken advantage of by opportunists who prey upon them," 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office has launched a new program called Financial Friday's meant to educate the public and prevent them from falling victim.

"We're talking about fraud, theft, money laundering, embezzlement," Senior Deputy District Attorney Rachael Powell said during Friday's press conference.

The DA's office economic crime unit includes six people and is lead by Powell.

"One type of fraud we see is contractor fraud. Contractor fraud is where a contractor takes the money you have taken to do a certain project for your home or your land and they take the money or put a lien on your property," Powell explained.

Prosecutors say they tend to see more contractor fraud in the summer months.

"Colorado law requires that contractors take the money from you and hold it in trust while they are doing your project. They're supposed to use those funds for supplies and subcontractors only on your project, not on other projects," Powell explained.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office typically focuses on cases where a contractor takes the money and never completes the work. If you believe you may be a victim of that type of crime, prosecutors say keeping documentation and providing it to law enforcement is key.

"Gather everything you have, any written documentation, any text messages, any emails, anything that can show where the relationship started, where the breakdown was, and what was communicated between the parties," Powell explained.

The DA's office says the first step to seeking justice for a contractor fraud case or other money crime is contacting local law enforcement. The Colorado Springs Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff's Office both have dedicated units that investigate financial crimes.

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

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