Wyoming news briefs for January 11

Woman pleads guilty to theft from substance abuse center

GILLETTE — The woman accused of stealing $189,075 from Personal Frontiers while working as the executive director of the drug and alcohol abuse counseling center has signed a plea agreement in the case.

Donna E. Morgan, 58, will plead guilty to one count of theft, and the two remaining counts of theft will be dismissed under the agreement.

Prosecutors will recommend a suspended four- to six-year prison sentence and 10 years of supervised probation. She also must pay restitution to Personal Frontiers.

The three counts were for each of the three years she worked at the agency.

Morgan is accused of spending $36,999 in unauthorized charges in 2019, $97,908 in 2020 and $54,168 in 2021 through Aug. 8, according to the affidavit.

Under the agreement, she also must pay restitution to Personal Frontiers, but attorneys agreed that they wouldn’t recommend a fine so that she can make restitution payments, according to court documents.

The plea deal was filed Thursday in District Court, which was the deadline for a plea agreement. A trial had been scheduled for Feb. 7.

Morgan allegedly told a Personal Frontiers board member in July while they were drinking that she was stealing money from the organization. She “felt that she would possibly have to refinance her home to pay off the outstanding debt,” according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

The board member contacted another board member and then reported it to the police.


Gas prices fall by 2.2 cents in last week

CHEYENNE — Average gasoline prices in Wyoming have fallen 2.2 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.23 per gallon Monday, according to GasBuddy.com's survey of 494 stations in Wyoming.

Prices in Wyoming are 10.2 cents per gallon lower than a month ago, and stand $1.04 per gallon higher than a year ago.

According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest station in Wyoming was priced at $2.69 per gallon Sunday, while the most expensive was $3.89, a difference of $1.20 per gallon.

The national average price of gasoline has risen 2.3 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.29 per gallon Monday. The national average is down 5.5 cents per gallon from a month ago and stands 97.5 cents per gallon higher than a year ago, according to GasBuddy data compiled from more than 11 million weekly price reports covering over 150,000 gas stations across the country.


Federal fugitive captured in Cody

CODY — Philip Dobbins, a Cody man with an outstanding federal warrant for his arrest, was apprehended by U.S. Marshals on the night of Jan. 5 in Cody. Jack Hatfield, Park County prosecuting attorney, said Dobbins was taken into custody at Rimrock Tire. He said there was no evidence Dobbins was living or working there.

Hatfield said the marshals received a call from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation regarding Dobbins’ location in Cody. He was transported to the Park County Detention Center by Cody Police.

Dobbins, 44, was originally arrested in March 2021 for participating in a multi-state drug distribution network. He was found with 12.5 ounces of meth as well as marijuana and hypodermic needles in his vehicle.

Dobbins had been on the lam since October, when he left the Life House drug treatment center in Sheridan where he was staying. 

Hatfield said he knew an arrest was imminent, and had been speaking with DCI about tracking Dobbins since December. He said DCI knew Dobbins was still in Wyoming, but authorities spent some time figuring out whether he was in Riverton or in Cody.

Dobbins is accused of coordinating with William Taylor to receive at least four ounces of meth that were mailed from California to Cody. Taylor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 50 grams of meth in November and will be sentenced on Feb. 2.


Serious ski resort collision still under investigation

JACKSON — Teton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a Jan. 3 collision at Grand Targhee Resort that allegedly left a 64-year-old skier in critical condition.

According to witness statements summarized for the Jackson Hole Daily by Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr, a skier traveling at high speed collided with a 64-year-old Driggs resident while she was skiing the Rock Garden run off Fred’s Mountain with her husband on Jan. 3 around 3:30 p.m.

The woman was life-flighted to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, Carr said. She remained in critical condition on Friday, according the hospital’s spokeswoman.

“We are going to investigate it,” Carr said Friday, though he acknowledged there is not yet much evidence to go on.

“We weren’t there at the time of collision, so we’re just following up as best we can, getting witness statements and interviewing. And again, the injured party is not available to be interviewed right now,” he said.

From the husband’s perspective, the skier who allegedly slammed into his wife made no effort to turn. That skier maintains the woman came out of nowhere, Carr said.

Carr said he’s working with a report from Targhee Ski Patrol, who declined to comment on the incident. A spokesperson for the mountain said: “We have no additional information at the moment.”


State reallocates rental assistance funds to tribe

CASPER — Wyoming’s Department of Family Services has reallocated $1 million in Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) money to the Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing Program. 

ERAP, established by the CARES Act, is a relief program for Americans struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In all, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has set aside $352 million for the program in Wyoming. So far, community organizations have doled out $14.5 million of that money to landlords, renters and utilities companies. 

The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes run separate ERAP programs — together, they received about $4.5 million in federal money. 

The Department of the Treasury is now reallocating some of the funds given out during the first wave of the program. The ERAP programs that got more money than they needed can request where the treasury moves their excess funds. 

To date, Wyoming is the only state to reallocate some of its ERAP money to a Native American tribe, the Department of Family Services said in a news release Monday. 

“Kudos must also be given to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, which funded non-tribal member households facing eviction before Wyoming’s state program launched last year,” Department of Family Services Director Korin Schmidt said in a statement. “We all want to make it possible for eligible families and individuals to get the help that they need to keep a roof over their heads.” 

In addition to the Northern Arapaho Tribe, the Eastern Shoshone and Wyoming state government are also eligible to receive reallocated ERAP funds, according to the release.