Breckenridge: Embezzler sentenced to 8 years in tow-truck case
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado ” Two years after being charged with embezzling $40,000 from her employer, Trudy Pillow on Monday was sentenced to eight years in prison, a startling sentence for her first criminal offense.
“It is extremely rare that the court will sentence someone to the Department of Corrections for a first felony conviction,” Judge Terry Ruckriegle said during the hearing at the Summit County Justice Center. “But given the circumstances of this case, I find no other alternative.”
In 2006, Pillow was charged will embezzling funds from her employer, Ryan Scheuermann of Ryan’s Recovery tow service in Breckenridge.
He discovered that she was padding paychecks for herself and fellow employees and charging personal expenses on the company credit card.
The felony carried a potential sentence of four to 12 years, with a mandatory parole of five years.
Although Pillow professed her innocence throughout the trial, a jury deliberated for only an hour before returning with a guilty verdict in May.
“She made me believe I could trust her in the office, and the whole time she was stealing behind my back,” Scheuermann said of his former secretary. “Even if I never get my money back, at least now she will understand what she did to me.”
Scheuermann and his wife, Angela, addressed the court on Monday, claiming that the theft crippled their small start-up business, and the abuse of trust caused them emotional trauma.
“We took this woman in as a friend and trusted secretary, and she took advantage of that kindness,” Angela Scheuermann said. “We have waited two years for this day.”
Pillow’s attorney Jeffrey Ryan, brought forth two of Pillow’s former employers to speak on behalf of her character, and both expressed dismay that a guilty verdict had been delivered.
“The justice system has failed her,” former employer Sharon Woodcock Turnar said. “I have never once questioned her honesty, and I find it difficult to believe she is guilty of embezzling funds.”
Judge Ruckriegle admitted that he had not decided on a sentence prior to arriving in court, and a silence fell on the courtroom as he deliberated for several minutes from behind the bench.
“This kind of crime really takes a toll on a community of this nature, where employers are dependent on trust of their employees,” Ruckriegle said. “I believe in standing by the decision of a jury, and 12 people from this community found you guilty.”
Pillow plans to appeal the sentence, citing ineffective assistance of counsel, according to Ryan. Pillow changed lawyers three separate times during the trial.
“We’re very surprised a first-offense sentence like this was handed down,” Ryan said after the hearing. “We will continue to attack this verdict because there were a number of things that were not done correctly during this trial.”
Pillow was taken into custody by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office immediately after sentencing, and she was also ordered to pay more than $600 is various court and victim’s compensation fees.
“The judge was so right with this sentence,” Scheuermann said outside the courthouse. “The feeling of closure is almost overwhelming.”