Santa Fe woman accused of embezzling nearly $600K

·2 min read

Sep. 3—A Santa Fe woman is accused of embezzling nearly $600,000 from her former employer, a local landscape architecture firm.

Heather Barna, 43, faces felony charges of embezzlement and unlawful use or theft of an ATM or debit card, according to a complaint filed in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court.

The complaint says Barna worked for Clemens and Associates between October 2020 and January 2022 as an office manager who oversaw the business's payroll. Catherine Clemens, the company's owner, told Santa Fe police she learned of the alleged crime after another worker noticed a $9,000 charge in the company's bank records that couldn't be explained.

Clemens said she consulted with the bank and believes Barna made 430 unauthorized transfers from the company's account to her personal account totaling more than $490,000 and also made 1,419 personal purchases on the company's Amazon account totaling over $77,000, according to the complaint.

Clements met with Barna to discuss the issue, the complaint says, and Barna admitted to taking money to cover the costs of a recent surgery. She gave Clements a check for $300,000 to repay some of the money she had taken, Clements told police, but more than $250,000 was not recovered.

Neither Clements nor Barna returned messages seeking comment on the case.

The criminal complaint says police obtained a search warrant for Barna's bank records and confirmed the unauthorized transactions.

Detective Daniel Quintana wrote in the complaint he called Barna to inform her about the investigation and she admitted, "I embezzled money from Catherine." She said she was doing everything she could "to try to make right by it," he wrote.

Barna told Quintana she was taking the money to for a medical condition and "promote her image," and explained how she had stolen the money by creating "vendor bills that did not exist and then pay the bills but not pay the vendor. I was transferring the money to me, but like insane amounts of money," according to the complaint.

An arraignment for Barna has been set for Sept. 19.