Local woman faces felony charges after allegedly stealing more than $7K in checks from employer

Stock image | Photo by Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A St. George woman was arrested and charged with multiple felonies Thursday for allegedly depositing nearly 30 forged checks into her account

Hayven Willden, 20, of St. George, was charged with second-degree felony theft and 10 third-degree felony counts of forgery after she was arrested and transported to jail earlier that same day.

The charges stem from an investigation that was initiated after a senior care center on River Road reported a theft involving an employee of the facility that allegedly took place in middle of December.

Officers learned through the course of the investigation that the employee, identified as Willden, allegedly took a check in the amount of more than $2,800 from the facility and then deposited it into her bank account.

Police set out to locate Willden, who they found hiding at her sister’s house later that same day, after other attempts to meet with the suspect had failed.

During an interview, the suspect allegedly admitted to police that she took the check from the care facility in mid-December. She also admitted to writing “pay to the order of” and her name on the back of the draft before depositing it into her bank account using an ATM.

Hayven Willden, 20, of St. George, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Jan. 9, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The suspect went on to say that the following day, the care facility contacted her when administrators discovered the theft after they spoke to the bank. Willden told them she would pay them back, even though the money had already been spent on bills, clothing and other purchases — so there was nothing left.

According to police, the suspect explained that she was employed as the receptionist for the facility, and one of her job duties was to open and record any incoming mail before it was distributed, including any checks received.

She was also tasked with looking up patient information on the computer to verify medical coverage until December when she was terminated by the company after she failed to pay them back for the check.

Officers then confronted the suspect with their suspicions that the $2,800 check incident was not an isolated case. And when asked, police say Willden told them they “were right,” the officer noted in the report.

Willden went on to tell the officers that she took 30-40 checks from the facility through the course of her employment and estimated the total amount to be between $3,000-$4,000. She also said she deposited the drafts using an app on her phone and that every check cleared the bank, the report said. She said the funds were spent on bills, clothes, food and other items.

After reviewing the suspect’s bank account information, officers found a total of 29 checks that were deposited into the suspect’s account, including the initial check that prompted the call to police. The checks allegedly stolen from the facility totaled more than $7,300.

Willden was arrested and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility where she was held on $62,500 bail until her release later that same day on a promise to appear. The initial appearance scheduled in 5th District Court was continued until Jan. 17, while a pretrial monitoring status report was requested by the court.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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