Ex-Summit Habitats CFO pleads guilty to theft
The former chief financial officer for Edwards-based Summit Habitats will avoid jail time if she repays $800,000 of the $2 million she stole from the development company, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert says.Karen Sue Kaffka, 46, who now lives in Nevada, embezzled the money during a five-year period ending with her termination in February 2002.”(Kaffka) has pled to Class 4 felony and has agreed to be placed on probation and make restitution of approximately $800,000,” Hurlbert says.”Our agreement is that she won’t do any jail time, but that she will pay restitution. Ultimately that’s up to a judge.” Sentencing is set for July 18 in Eagle County District Court.Hurlbert says Summit Habitats owners Kathy and Sandy Treat agreed to the terms of the plea deal. Sandy Treat did not return a call requesting comment.Kaffka’s attorney, Inga Causey of Dunn and Causey in Avon, also did not return a call seeking comment. But court documents obtained by The Vail Trail paint a picture of an increasingly desperate woman whose theft from the company “snowballed” as the years went by.In an affidavit written by Eagle County Sheriff’s Detective Doug Winters supporting an arrest warrant, Kaffka ultimately confessed to writing more than 500 unauthorized checks on Summit Habitat accounts, paying for the construction of her two Cordillera homes with company funds and buying a home for her daughter in Fort Collins using company money.The affidavit details a phone conversation between Kaffka and Kathy Treat, recorded by Winters, in which Treat asked Kaffka why she “did what she did to the company.”Kaffka responded that she didn’t know, but that if she had to pick a reason, “it was for greed.”Treat then replied, “Once you start having a lifestyle, you have to pay for it.””I know,” Kaffka said.Kaffka was hired as financial controller for Summit Habitats in September 1997, and her husband, Greg, was hired as the company’s project manager and later promoted to vice president of the business. He quit in January of 2002, citing stress. He was never charged in the case.Kaffka was appointed chief financial officer and human resources director in 2000, but by then she had already begun to funnel money into private accounts.Approximately $800,000 of the $2 million was removed through checks Kaffka wrote to herself and to her husband, the affidavit states, and another $105,000 disappeared through an unauthorized petty cash account set up by Kaffka.The pattern of theft began to unravel in January 2002 when Kathy Treat noticed there was an unpaid draw of $238,455 on one of the Cordillera homes. Kaffka paid the draw but this raised suspicions and ultimately led to an audit of Kaffka’s work, culminating with her termination in February of that year and her arrest in June 2002.According to court files, the Treats have recovered a substantial amount of the stolen funds by seizing and selling Kaffka’s properties.Originally charged with a Class 3 felony count of theft, Kaffka has pled to a lesser Class 4 felony, which carries a possible penalty of 2-6 years in jail, fines of between $2,000 and $500,000 and a mandatory three years of parole.
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