Judge endorses plea in Outlaw case
District Judge Tom Moorhead moved forward with a plea agreement offered by District Attorney Mark Hurlbert that includes restitution of $112,000 and no jail time. Sentencing is set for Dec. 16.
Outlaw, 30, of Avon, is accused of stealing more than $700,000 in local condo fees. The original charges against him included two counts of theft, one count of unauthorized use of a financial transaction device and one count of forgery – all felonies.
Outlaw – who appeared in court with two $110,000 checks to pay restitution – on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one count of theft, a class four felony that can carry a sentence of two to six years in prison, and one misdemeanor sexual offense.
“All we can do is voice our opinions before the judge rules,” said Inga Causey, an attorney representing the Stone Creek Condominium Association. “A $110,000 restitution is a drop in the bucket. If (Outlaw) can’t pay, he should be sentenced to jail. He’s leaving a trail of victims behind.”
Moorhead ordered Outlaw to appear before a probation officer and to undergo a pre-sentence report, which will determine if Outlaw can be rehabilitated.
“After that, I’ll decide if the proposed sentence is adequate,” Moorhead said.
If Moorhead decides to switch to a jail sentence, Outlaw could lose the plea deal.
Jan Myrck, president of the Vail Point Homeowners Association –which lost $107,000 – told Moorhead the offer was an outrage.
“All of my owners would rather see Mr. Outlaw in jail, where he belongs,” she said. “Not only have we suffered a monetary loss, but an emotional distress. This is an insulting plea offer.”
Before his ruling, Moorhead said the court places a lot of weight on the District Attorney’s recommendations. Hurlbert said property crime cases sometimes don’t result in prison sentences because the goal is to get restitution.
But Moorhead said he’ll consider more than the restitution when he makes his final decision.
“There are other factors to be considered, including the nature of the offense, the potential rehabilitation of the defendant and the protection of the public. And none of these are taken lightly,” Moorhead said.
Outlaw could have faced between four and 12 years in prison for the initial theft charge.
Moorhead, however, could accept Hurlbert’s request of a six- to 12-month home detention sentence. Outlaw’s attorney requested that be served in Tulsa, Okla., where Outlaw will work.
“Until he makes a final decision on the sentence, we can’t do anything,” said Shirley Ritland, president of the Stone Creek Condominium Association. “Somebody like Outlaw shouldn’t just be slapped on the hand and let to go running to Oklahoma. If we don’t get some restitution and jail, we’re saying it’s OK to come to Eagle County, embezzle money and never pay.”
Outlaw is accused of embezzling the money from an Eagle-Vail property management company that does business with numerous homeowners’ 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.
“This has cost me $50,000 in legal fees and all the associations are coming after me,” Poppleton said. “I haven’t been able to work in two years. I just want to be over with this.”
Outlaw also used another man’s credit card to finance trips to New York City and to buy stereos, charging $72,000, which the cardholder had to pay.
Dan Havlik, president of the West Lake Homeowners Association, said the long-term question is if the county has an environment that discourages embezzlement.
“We need to be careful,” Havlik said. “Are we transferring a problem from Eagle County to Tulsa?
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at