Owner of defunct property management company wants pay for helping investigators in embezzlement case
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said Thursday he didn’t know if he would pursue charges against local property manager Jim Poppleton because of claims the latter made in a letter that evidence he gave investigators in an embezzlement case was fabricated.
“We could potentially charge him with false reporting to authorities,” Hurlbert said.
Poppleton, who owned PRM Property Management, provided investigators with hundreds of pages of documents and financial records as they prepared embezzlement charges against his former employee, Brandon Outlaw. But Poppleton, who has now claimed the data is false, said he isn’t concerned about the possible consequences of his letter.
“I am disgruntled … I’m developing an extreme dislike for the way justice works,” Poppleton said. “There’s an inequality in justice. How can they pay for all the extra experts in the Kobe Bryant case an the extra experts in the Kobe Bryant case and can’t pay me?”
But the justice system doesn’t always work according to expectations, said local attorney Rohn Robbins.
“Our form of criminal justice is imperfect,” he said. “But Poppleton’s attitude could end up helping Outlaw’s attorney.”
Poppleton said he doesn’t feel he is helping Outlaw.
“Outlaw is going to jail for a long time anyway,” he said. “The homeowners aren’t going to get paid.”
To Jeff Antonius, a homeowner at Vail Point townhomes and one of the alleged victims, it was Poppleton’s duty to assist the police investigation.
“Outlaw was his employee,” Antonius said.
“We have a case with or without Poppleton’s help,” he added. “We have enough evidence. The financial committee at Vail Point reviewed records provided by Wells Fargo which substantiate our loss.”
Despite the turns in the case, Hurlbert said he stills to get some of the homeowners’ their money back.
If the prosecution’s star witness in an increasingly tangled embezzlement case sticks to his claim that information he provided investigators was false, theft charges against former Avon resident Brandon Outlaw could fall apart, a local attorney said.
The witness, Jim Poppleton, former owner of the defunct PRM Realty management company, is now saying the 800 pages of data and documents he gave the investigators who arrested Outlaw, his former bookkeeper, are bogus.
“I falsified the bank statements and the copies of the checks and deposit tickets ” front and back,” Jim Poppleton wrote in a letter to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert this week.
Hurlbert said Poppleton’s letter is considered new evidence in the case.
“We need to re-evaluate the case and see where the case is based on this letter,” he said. “We could still use some of the evidence provided by Poppleton, such as bank statements and copies of checks. There are papers that back things up.”
Poppleton said Thursday the information he provided Eagle County Sheriff Detective Doug Winters and the District Attorney’s Office is true, but he intends to maintain its bogus until he gets paid for the work he did to help putting the case together.
“If he goes through with his threat, the case could go out the window,” said local attorney Rohn Robbins.
Poppleton said it took him more than five months to put the case together against Outlaw, who is accused of stealing $700,000 in local condo fees. Outlaw faces a trial in Eagle County in August on the theft charges stemming from this case and has also been indicted for drug trafficking by a federal grand jury in Oklahoma, where he’s due to go on trial May 17.
“He did a lot of leg work in showing the path of the money,” Hurlbert said. “But we can’t pay a witness”
Without his help, Poppleton claims, it would have cost the District Attorney’s Office about $180,000 if the investigation had been done by a Denver forensic accounting company.
“They never agreed to pay me. I helped them because I was concerned this case wouldn’t get prosecuted,” Poppleton said.
When there’s a big white collar crime, the District Attorney’s Office can pay for a forensic accountant to help with the investigation, said Hurlbert, who inherited the case from former District Attorney Mike Goodbee.
“When I got here, we didn’t need a forensic accountant. If I don’t have to spend taxpayers’ money, I won’t,” Hurlbert said.
But Poppleton said, although there was never any compensation agreement, he expected to be paid in the same way other expert witnesses are.
“What they got from me is better than what they’ll get from any forensic accountant,” Poppleton said. “They have to pay for the truth like their paying in the Kobe Bryant case.”
The District Attroney’s Office has asked for a $145,000 supplemental budget to prosecute Bryant’s case.
“We appreciate all he’s done, but we can’t pay him as a witness,” Hurlbert said. “The problem of paying a witness is that it can hurt their credibility.”
Local attorney Robbins agreed with Hurlbert.
“There’s a distinction between a fact witness as opposed to an expert witness,” Robbins said. “A fact witness is someone who observes the crime with his own senses. An expert witness Is somebody who gets paid to give testimony and is an expert in the matter.”
Still, a fact witness can ” as Poppleton did ” provide a lot of information, he added.
“He is reacting out of understandable frustration, but there are consequences,” Robbins said. “He could be held in contempt of court and charged with crime of perjury. They could even charge him with obstruction of justice. He could face serious stuff.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at email@example.com.