Homeowners against plea in Outlaw case
Outlaw, 30, of Avon, is accused of stealing more than $700,000 in local condo fees and is expected to enter a plea agreement today at the Eagle County Justice Center. He is charged with two counts of theft, one count of unauthorized use of a financial transaction device and one count of forgery – all felonies.
The plea agreement offered by District Attorney Mark Hurlbert includes restitution of $112,000 and no jail time. If District Judge Tom Moorhead rejects the agreement, Outlaw, who was set for a November trial, could face between four and 12 years in prison for the theft charge.
“From looking at other cases, people get jail for this,” said James Kearney, vice president of the homeowner’s association at the Vail Point townhomes, which allegedly suffered from Outlaw’s activities.
“The DA has previously said he had a good case. To me this offer is just outrageous,” Kearney said. “In the Vail Valley there have been similar cases, nobody seems to be getting any jail time.”
In an e-mail to Moorhead, Jeff Antonius, a property owner at Vail Point, asks the judge not to accept the plea offer and require full restitution or go to trial.
“We reject the plea because it doesn’t have any jail time, just probation, and Outlaw is required to pay $112,000 when the total loss is more than $1 million,” Antonius said. “Our objection is we’re letting a guy steal up to a $1 million and he will end up paying 10 percent and get no jail.
“About 70 percent of the property owners involved in the case object to this agreement,” he added.
According to authorities, Outlaw is only accused of stealing $700,000.
Four out of six homeowners associations that have contacted Hurlbert on the plea offer have objected to it, Hurlbert said Tuesday. In some letters he has received, Hurlbert said, people have indicated they’d rather see Outlaw in jail than get restitution from him.
“Given the situation, getting more than $100,000 in restitution now is significant,” Hurlbert said. “Generally, property crime cases don’t end up in prison because the goal is to get restitution. A person can be convicted and all he can pay then maybe is $100 a month. It’s a hard call.”
Hurlbert said he’ll be recommending one-year in home detention for Outlaw, which means Outlaw is allowed to go to work, but he can’t do anything else. He will have to wear an ankle bracelet to keep track of whereabouts.
If Moorhead accepts the plea agreement, Hurlbert said he’ll ask the court to distribute the money among the associations involved.
Outlaw, who turned himself in to authorities in July 2002 – after a six-month investigation – is out on $100,000 bail. He is accused of embezzling the money from an Eagle-Vail property management company that does business with numerous homeowner’s associations, prosecutors said.
James Poppleton, property manager of PRM Reality in Eagle-Vail, filed a complaint with police on Jan. 22, 2002, alleging that $442,000 worth of condo fee checks collected by PRM over the previous year were not deposited in the company’s various bank accounts.
It is suspected that somebody forged Poppleton’s signature and cashed the checks, the criminal complaint says.
Poppleton told police he first became suspicious in December, 2001, when he noticed money missing. He did not press charges then because some of the money was paid back, the criminal complaint says.
Some members of the homeowners associations are clearly fed up.
“We also feel the acceptance of the plea is improper because we have been kept in the dark on the process despite many requests for elucidation,” Antonius said. “We haven’t been given adequate time to respond to this plea.
“We think (Hurlbert) is taking the arrangement because he is too busy with the (Kobe) Bryant case.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.