Chapter 10: Unraveling

March 16th, 2010

Kimball flees as Lafayette police investigate check fraud

By John Aguilar
Camera Staff Writer

A surveillance photo shows Scott Kimball cashing a forged check on optometrist Cleve Armstrong’s account at the former Centennial Bank of the West on South Boulder Road in Lafayette. (Courtesy of Lafayette police)

Cleve Armstrong thumbed through his stack of mail. The Lafayette optometrist, just back from vacation, couldn’t find his most recent bank statement.

He walked next door to Heritage Bank, where he kept $140,000 in a money-market account. The manager informed him there had been activity in his account — major activity.

More than $83,000 had been moved to his checking account over the last three weeks. From there, $55,000 worth of checks had been written to just two companies: Rocky Mountain All Natural Beef and Rocky Mountain Cattle Co.

The check-fraud case landed on the desk of Lafayette police Detective Gary Thatcher a few days later, on Jan. 16, 2006. He met with the 60-year-old eye doctor at his optometry office at 801 S. Public Road.

Barb Kimball ran an insurance office in the same building. Her son had a desk, a computer and some meat freezers in the basement, near a poorly secured closet where Armstrong kept his most sensitive financial records.

The optometrist said Scott Kimball had impersonated him on the phone and moved money between his accounts, then forged Armstrong’s signature on a string of checks.

Thatcher went looking for Kimball, but to no avail.

The suspect had fled the state.

Late 2005

Kimball’s comfortable Colorado life had unraveled fairly quickly.

Scott Kimball cashing a forged check Dec. 28, 2005, at the former Heritage Bank on 95th Street in Lafayette. (Courtesy of Lafayette police)

His FBI protection vanished when the bureau reassigned Special Agent Carle Schlaff, who had vouched for Kimball since his 2002 release from prison as a paid informant.

The FBI won’t say when or why it removed Schlaff from Kimball’s case, but by late fall the relationship had ended.

Kimball’s marriage had imploded, too.

Over the summer, Scott Kimball had twice called the cops on his wife, Lori Kimball, first claiming she hit him with a vacuum cleaner and threatened to kill him, and a month later saying she violated the resulting restraining order.

He moved out of the couple’s Adams County home sometime in the fall and rented a small house at 12632 Flagg Drive in Lafayette.

Kimball soon took up with a 25-year-old waitress, Melissa Anderson, who worked at Perkins in Westminster. Anderson described him as “gentleman-like,” even if he did have a proclivity for rough sex, bondage and snapping photos of her partially dressed.

Prohibited from purchasing firearms as a felon, Kimball used his new girlfriend to buy a .22-caliber Winchester rifle Dec. 28 at a Walmart in Thornton. He told Anderson he would teach her how to hunt, but once she bought him the gun she never heard from him again.

Jan. 20, 2006

Thatcher descended the stairs into the cluttered basement at 801 S. Public Road.

Several full-sized freezers lined the floor, a Dell computer occupied a table, and a white board with the words “Buy 2 steaks, get half off a roast” leaned against a roll-top desk.

Lafayette police Detective Gary Thatcher stands in front of the 801 S. Public Road building that in 2005 housed the offices of Cleve Armstrong, Barb Kimball and Scott Kimball. (Kasia Broussalian / Camera)

In a trash can, Thatcher found sheets of practice signatures and several bogus subpoenas regarding the assault case against Kimball’s wife.

He found a counterfeit lien release for a Jeep — complete with company letterhead and an altered seal from Barb Kimball’s notary stamp — which Scott Kimball used to cash in on insurance proceeds after wrecking the vehicle the previous month.

The detective also found mail addressed to Kimball’s former home in Adams County, now sub-leased to another tenant. He visited the property and found a trailer that Kimball had reported stolen in December.

Kimball had already received a $10,000 insurance payout for it.

Thatcher could see he had a brazen scam artist on his hands — one with a notable level of chutzpah and sophistication.

In interviews with the bank tellers and managers Kimball had charmed and deceived, Thatcher put together the picture of a supremely confident man who wore a big smile and spread an infectious optimism wherever he went.

“He had a presence about him when he walked into the room,” the detective says. “He would always offer (the tellers) steaks from his cattle business. Scott knew what people wanted to hear from him. He had the gift of gab.”

But once Thatcher began talking to Kimball’s estranged wife, whose daughter had gone missing more than two years earlier, he realized this cattleman with a penchant for schmoozing and shams might be hiding a far more sinister secret.

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