Eagle County man pleads guilty to ripping off Rotary Club
June 27, 2013
EAGLE — Like his father before him, Henry Kunter was treasurer of the Vail Rotary Club.
Unlike his father, Kunter embezzled at least $136,033 from the local Rotarians, while also stealing another $87,940.36 from his employer, Crystal River Oil and Gas.
Kunter pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of felony theft in District Court. He admitted stealing from the Vail Rotary Club, as well as his employer, Crystal River Oil and Gas.
The Rotarians were also paying Kunter to be their treasurer, said Rich Siegel, this year's Vail Rotary Club president.
During their investigation, prosecutors found that Kunter embezzled at least $224,000 from the two, prosecutor Joe Kirwan said.
Kunter cried when he stood at the podium, trying to explain himself to District Court Judge Fred Gannett.
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"There is nothing I can say today, or ever, that can change what I have done," Kunter said. "I will do everything I can, I will work hard to repay what I stole. No amount of apologies will fix anything, but I will do my best to repay."
What he faces
Kunter's attorney argued for probation, saying it was the quickest road to restitution. Judge Gannett did not agree.
"Under no circumstances can I sentence you to probation," Gannett told Kunter.
Gannett said he could find aggravating circumstances in Kunter's actions that could run a prison sentence up to 20 years, but said he probably won't do that either.
"Prison won't get Mr. Kunter's victims repaid, which he will do — every penny," Gannett said.
Kunter could be sentenced to community corrections, where he could work and begin to repay the money that he stole, Gannett said.
For stealing $136,033 from the Vail Rotary Club, Kunter faces up to 12 years in prison and fines up to $750,000.
For stealing $87,940.36 from Crystal River Oil and Gas, Kunter faces up to six years in state prison and fines up to $500,000.
Gannett will sentence Kunter at 10 a.m. Sept. 16. The judge sent him directly to jail without bond Monday, where he will stay until he is sentenced.
A civil suit is ongoing to determine who gets what part of the $37,000 Kunter has in a local bank
What he did
Kunter's father, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, resigned as treasurer of the Vail Rotary Club, and Vail's Rotarians handed the club's finances to his son Henry.
"We thought trust ran in the family lineage," Siegel said.
It wasn't long before some of the club's vendors began approaching officers to ask why they had not been paid.
"We know what was stolen after it hit our accounts. We have no idea how much was stolen before that," Siegel said.
The investigation found that in 2009, Kunter began writing checks from the Rotary Club account to dummy companies he controlled. Among them was HYK Enterprises LLC, which was discovered in 2012, Kirwan said.
"A man like this is a threat to our community. I would ask for the stiffest penalty so he never has the opportunity to ever do this again. We all work for a living and we can't have guys like this thinking we're all just pockets to steal from," Siegel said.
Kunter taught accounting at Colorado Mountain College. He started with Crystal Oil and Gas in 2011, as a bookkeeper and accountant.
Among the checks Kunter wrote to himself from the oil company's accounts were two checks to VRC Operations Inc., for $8,500 each, and one to Apache Enterprises Ltd., for $39,128.73.
His scheme began to unravel in October 2012, when he wrote a second check to Apache Enterprises for another $39,128.73. The company's managers alerted the Basalt police and stopped payment on that check.
"The checks were written to creations of Mr. Kunter. They were totally bogus entities," Kirwan said.
After he was caught, Kunter filed complaints about Crystal River Oil and Gas with the Colorado Department of Labor and the California Department of Labor.
"He continued to contact investors and tell them lies. I can't image how someone would continue to hurt his employers and co-workers in this way," said Gary Schelling, with Crystal River Oil and Gas.
The company is still dealing with that, the company's Amy Wells said in court Monday.
"He was constantly threatening us that the company didn't have the money to pay people or give bonuses. He knew exactly what he was doing, exactly who he was stealing from," Wells said.
Kirwan said the only other case that comes close to Kunter's was a man who embezzled at least a quarter million dollars from a local Catholic Church.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org