Embezzling case heads to District Court | VailDaily.com

Embezzling case heads to District Court

Veronica Whitney

“That is rather odd because people want to start anew somewhere else,” says District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.

Cleaver, 56, of Gypsum, faces theft charges in two separate cases in Eagle County. She is accused of stealing money and a computer totaling about $15,000 from Streamline Builders in Gypsum. She is also accused of stealing money from the Vail Symposium, where she was a computer consultant for four years. The money allegedly was used to pay her bond from the first case.

This week, Eagle County Judge Fred Gannett bound the Vail Symposium theft case to District Court, where Judge Tom Moorhead will deal with both cases. Cleaver’s next appearance in court is Jan. 14.

her bond and also to pay for her attorney’s fees, court records say.

“Most people in this situation leave the valley,” said Cleaver, who is out on $7,500 bond. “My husband asks me why I want to stay. This is my home. I want to make things right.”

Staying home

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Cleaver, who acknowledges she took the money from the Vail Symposium, has lived in Eagle County for 15 years.

“Running makes you look you’re a bad person, and I’m not,” she said. “I’ve made a mistake and I’m sorry. Unfortunately, there’s a precedent in this valley.”

Among recent cases:

n Karen Kaffka, the former chief financial officer for a general contracting company, moved to Nevada after pleading guilty to stealing $2 million from the company in Edwards.

n Mark Mogul, who will stand trial in March for allegedly stealing $341,000 from time-share sales in Edwards, moved from Avon to Breckenridge.

n Brandon Outlaw, who on Tuesday faces sentencing on theft charges – he pleaded guilty to stealing more than $700,000 in condo fees from some 400 people – moved to Tulsa, Okla., where he now faces drug-trafficking charges.

Cleaver said she took the money from the Vail Symposium because she was desperate.

“There were extenuating circumstances,” she argued. “I didn’t have any other way. I’m the breadwinner in my family, and I had to pay for the propane. I should have told Ebby (Pinson, director of the Vail Symposium) about my problems, but I didn’t want her to know I also needed the money to pay for my bond.”

According to court records, Cleaver allegedly used a Vail Symposium credit card for more than $2,000 to pay for her bond and her attorney, among other things.

Court records also show that from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2001, Cleaver allegedly stole money, a cell phone and a computer from Streamline Builders. She was charged in April 2003 with one count of theft, a level III felony.

In April, she was arrested again and charged with theft, this time a level IV felony, for allegedly stealing from the Vail Symposium, a nonprofit organization. The unauthorized expenses were allegedly made from Nov. 1, 2002, through Oct. 1 of this year.

“It was never my intention,” said Cleaver, a former board member of the Vail Valley Chamber of Commerce (now the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau). “I want to make it right. I offered Ebby to settle without going to the police. My intention was to pay that money back.”

Records filed with the Eagle County Justice Center show Cleaver used the Vail Symposium credit card to pay $1,125 for her bond in April and $1,000 in June to a local attorney representing her. Cleaver also is accused of falsifying Vail Symposium reconciliation statements to hide these transactions.

Being more careful

Pinson said the board trusted Cleaver because she had worked for the Vail Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Since she’s realized what had been going on, Pinson said, some things are changing in the way the nonprofit does business.

“We’re just very careful,” said Pinson, who found out about the alleged illegal transactions while reviewing financial statements in July. “You have to have a lot of checks and balances whether it’s a nonprofit or not. We’re reviewing personally now and following our accountant’s guidelines.”

If convicted of the theft charge, Cleaver could face up to 12 years in prison, a fine of $3,000 to $750,000 and mandatory parole of five years. If she is convicted on the charge involving the Vail Symposium, she could get up to six years in prison, a fine of $2,000 to $500,000 and mandatory parole of three years.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.