Nastri sentenced to 30 days in jail for role in thefts from town of Vail
Accomplice in alleged scheme also ordered to pay $156,833 in restitution
EAGLE — Eric Nastri on Wednesday was sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay $156,833 restitution to the town of Vail for his role in a scheme that prosecutors say stole nearly $855,000 from the town from 2012 to 2018.
Prosecutors alleged that Nastri, 55, of Denver, was a friend and accomplice who helped the town’s former IT director, Ron Braden, circumvent the town’s normal bidding and contracting processes to steal the money, allowing Braden to steer contracts for IT work to companies Nastri owned or worked for.
Nastri would keep 12.91% of the money sent to his companies and send the rest of the money to Colorado Technology Convergence, a company that Braden owned. Braden would would hire contractors to complete the IT work for the town, but also keep money for himself in the process, prosecutors alleged.
In brief remarks made remotely via video feed, Nastri apologized to the court, to the people of the town of Vail, and to his family, saying he is embarrassed and “deeply sorry” for his actions, promising “it will never happen again.”
Nastri faced eight felony charges for his involvement in the alleged scheme, including theft, conspiracy to commit theft, four counts of forgery, conspiracy to commit money laundering and violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. He reached a plea bargain with prosecutors in mid-September after being arrested in July, agreeing to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, a class 4 felony, and pay the restitution to the town.
Because of Nastri’s supporting role in the scheme and because of his cooperation with investigators, prosecutors did not request any prison or jail time for Nastri, while Vail Police asked the court to not impose any jail time as part of the sentence.
Heidi McCollum, assistant district attorney for Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, told District Court Judge Paul. R. Dunkelman that Braden was the mastermind of the scheme. She added that Nastri was later instrumental in helping police and prosecutors piece together the case against Braden, who died by suicide last month before standing trial.
“Across this district, white collar crimes are treated very seriously and often result in prison sentences,” McCollum told Dunkelman.
“In light of the bigger player in this case, that is something we contemplated, and at that point we felt comfortable putting in (the plea agreement) that the people would not be specifically requesting jail time. The people are not requesting the judge to not sentence him to jail, we believe we will leave that in the hands of your honor,” McCollum said.
Vail Police Commander Ryan Kenney, who investigated the cases against Nastri and Braden, told the court Nastri has been “100% cooperative with the investigation, and done his best to help us fill in details and figure out exactly how this scam worked.”
“I believe through bad decisions, he put himself and his company at Ron Braden’s disposal. I’m not absolving him of the decisions he made, but I would ask if the court could consider not sentencing him to jail in this,” Kenney told the court.
Judge Dunkelman struggled with the request, saying it was hard to believe Nastri was simply naive about his relationship with Braden and what was happening for the years in question.
“You weren’t the mastermind, but you took advantage of someone else’s masterminding to steal money from the town of Vail and ultimately got caught,” Dunkelman told Nastri before sentencing him to 30 days in jail.
Nastri will serve the sentence starting Feb. 12 to reduce demands on the county jail during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dunkelman also ordered Nastri to 10 years of probation. That probation can be reduced to three years if Nastri meets all the terms and pays the ordered restitution to the town, something Nastri told the court he was prepared to do almost immediately.
“The punishment that comes with this, that could have been a lot worse,” Dunkelman told Nastri. “You stepped up and took responsibility. That’s why we’re not here talking about a prison sentence … Good people can make terrible decisions. I think that’s what this case is about. You made terrible decisions. Pay the price, own it, and move on with your life. I understand that’s what you’re going to do, so good luck.”
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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