Outlaw’s victims plead with judge
December 2, 2003
In the past month, letters asking an Eagle County judge to reject the plea arrangement made by convicted local embezzler Brandon Outlaw have been pouring in to the Eagle County Justice Center almost daily.
Outlaw, 30, a former resident of Avon, pleaded guilty in October to stealing $700,000 in condo fees from several homeowners associations in Eagle County. His sentencing hearing is Dec. 16.
“We’re begging the judge to change the arrangement,” says Jeff Antonius, a property owner at Vail Point Townhomes. “We’d like to see something much closer to full restitution and real prison time. He stole and he walks. Vail has to say, “No’.” In October, 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. Outlaw could have faced between four and 12 years in prison for the initial theft charge.
Several homeowners showed up at the October hearing and spoke against the plea arrangement. Since then, several more have written Moorhead pleading with him to reject the arrangement at the sentencing.
“I lost both my companies within a month of the discovery of the crime,” writes Jim Poppleton, who owned PRM Realty and Premier Maintenance, the two companies Outlaw used to launder the money he took from seven homeowners associations. “(The case) has cost me over $300,000 out of pocket, which I have funded through exhausting savings and retirement accounts.”
“I have suffered a loss of approximately $3,000 due to Mr. Outlaw’s fraudulent actions,” Loren Smith, a homeowner at Vail Point writes.
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“This was hardly a crime of impulse, but a crime that was well conceived and carried out over a lengthy period of time,” writes Bill Irwing, a homeowner at Gore Creek Meadows.
“It is inconceivable to me that restitution of $112,000, or just 16 percent of the alleged theft, should satisfy the court,” writes Peter van Dernoot, of the Stone Creek condominium association.
“This proposed plea bargain is not justice and it does not send the right message,” writes Michael Sample, another homeowner at Vail Point.
But Hurlbert says he feels it was a just plea bargain in the case. At least until he learned that Outlaw also faces drug trafficking charges in Oklahoma.
“He appeared in court and until (drug trafficking charges) he had gone with the conditions of his bond,” Hurlbert says. “I feel for the victims, this was a very real crime. But getting something is better than getting nothing.”
The plea offer, however, could change in light of the drug trafficking charges, Hurlbert says.
In another letter, James Wiss owner of a townhome in Vail Point, says he believes the Kobe Bryant rape case has taken center stage in Eagle County.
“(District Attorney’s Office) please do not let that case overshadow the serious damage that was done by one individual to over 400 people,” Wiss writes in his letter to Moorhead.
Hurlbert says that allegation is completely untrue.
“I have been able to deal with both cases,” he says. “My plea bargain in the Outlaw case had nothing to do with Kobe. That deal was pretty standard and its goal was to make the victims whole.”
Outlaw is accused of embezzling the money from Poppleton’s company, an Eagle-Vail property management company, that did business with numerous homeowners’ associations. Poppleton 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.
“Without some type of more serious punishment than a slap on the wrist,” writes Thomas O’Hara, another victim of Outlaw, “it seems to me that crime really does pay.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.