Vail Daily Year in Review, Part 2: Assorted sordid tales, scams, shams and other court action
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a five-part series reviewing the biggest news in the Vail Valley in 2017. Find additional installments in the paper in coming days and at http://www.vaildaily.com.
Here in the Vail Valley, we had quite the year, and as is the case every year, there were some creeps and knuckleheads among us — but also some Good Samaritans. Here’s a collection of what made its way through the courthouse this year.
• Drunk and drunker — Folks in Colorado’s 5th Judicial District lead the state in drunken driving arrests per capita. So, are we the drunkest section of the Centennial State, or are our law enforcement officers working harder at it?
All of the above, said local law enforcement officials.
Attorney Jay Tiftickjian’s law firm crunched the data from the Colorado State Demographer’s Office and Colorado Courts.
• Crime spree completed — The case of Jesus Manuel Miranda’s criminal enterprise finally concluded. Miranda in 2015 tried to rob two local check-cashing businesses within a half hour.
He got no money from either and was video recorded in both. Miranda shot Alan Gonzalez three times (Gonzalez recovered), smacked a storeowner in the head with an illegal handgun, stole two cellphones from a customer and ran. He didn’t get far.
The case concluded when the last of the three-member gang was hammered with a 20-year prison sentence.
• “Felony stupid” bomb builder — If you intend to go fishing, then do not use anything like Dustin Brown’s bomb. Or, if you and your girlfriend break up and you move out, then remember to take your bomb with you.
If you don’t, then your girlfriend might land in the Pitkin County jail. While she’s there, she might tell the police that your bomb is in the Roaring Fork Valley apartment where you used to live, and where officers can find it. That’s what Brown’s girlfriend did.
In court, Brown referred to his own behavior as “felony stupid.” He blamed drugs and alcohol. Instead of recycling, Brown stuffed a two-liter soda bottle with gunpowder, .22 caliber bullets, .25 caliber bullets, a .410 shotgun shell and dozens of small pieces of lead shot and then wrapped the whole thing with black plastic electrical tape.
The plan, Brown said, was to put the concoction in the water — presumably Reudi Reservoir — and blow it up, because it would be fun, and because it could be construed as some form of fishing. Brown did all that while on probation for his four previous felony convictions in North and South Carolina.
• The cat with the hat — Let this be a lesson to you: When you’re in court before the judge, and you doff your cap in deference, make sure your cocaine does not fall out of your hat and onto the courtroom floor where both the judge and the cops can see it.
And it would help if you weren’t in court on a separate felony drug charge in the first place.
Juan Jose Vidrio Bibriesca, 43, was before Eagle County Court Judge Katharine Sullivan for a bond violation on a felony drug charge.
Apparently, Bibriesca was raised to be polite. When he reached the podium in the middle of Sullivan’s courtroom, he removed his hat, as a gentleman would, and held it behind his back in both hands. As he swung his hat behind his back, a small square of folded paper obeyed the law of gravity and landed on the floor behind him.
A local law enforcement officer was in the gallery and watched the whole thing, which happened mere yards from the front door of the Eagle County jail, to which Bibriesca was whisked almost immediately.
Scams and shams
• Equifax scammer called sheriff — Scammers have become so brazen that an Eagle County sheriff’s detective received a call, on an office phone, from a scammer claiming to be an Eagle County sheriff’s detective.
The scammer then requested the detective’s Social Security number, claiming that he wanted to pull up a warrant. Obviously, the scammer didn’t realize that he was actually speaking to a detective from the Sheriff’s Office.
• Anderson scam — A federal financial watchdog is suing Carolyn Anderson, the widow of former Vail resident Michael Anderson, saying Carolyn was part of Michael’s ponzi scheme. The Securities and Exchange Commission says Carolyn helped Michael scam 18 investors out of more than $5.3 million between March 2014 and Feb. 27, 2017, when Michael was found dead in his garage, where his ATV had been running.
The SEC lawsuit says the couple divorced in 2009 but remarried on Feb. 2, 2017, fewer than four weeks before Michael Anderson’s death. Michael bequeathed all his property to Carolyn and made her the sole beneficiary of a $2 million life insurance policy that the SEC says they bought with money from defrauded investors.
Carolyn used some of that $2 million to buy a house in Point Verde, Florida, and a Jaguar F-Pace car. Carolyn claimed to run the End of the Rainbow Foundation, whose address was a mailbox in the West Vail UPS store. The SEC called it a “sham” that did “no charitable work.”
Michael had been under investigation by the SEC since at least July 2016, when the agency issued a subpoena for his trade records. He did not provide them. Before he died, Michael Anderson hired an attorney to help him draft a sworn confession.
Other court action
• Uber’s oops — A Vail Uber driver’s assault on a client led to the ride-sharing service getting hammered with an $8.9 million fine from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The Public Utilities Commission found that 57 Colorado Uber working drivers were not eligible, including 12 Uber drivers with felony convictions, 17 Uber drivers with major moving vehicle violations — DUI, DWI, reckless driving, driving under restraint — and one who was a convicted felon, habitual offender and had escaped from a Colorado state prison. Nevertheless, after he was released from prison, he became an Uber driver.
Uber claims the problems stemmed from a “process error.”
• Whole lotta lawyerin’ goin’ on — Noah Nordheimer plans to build a high-end high country rehab center where The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera used to be. Some Cordillera property owners are vocally opposed.
District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman slapped down the Cordillera crew’s claims, saying, essentially, if The Lodge & Spa were such a valuable asset to the Cordillera community, then they would have used it more and it would not have hemorrhaged money under the previous owners.
• Menconi arrested again — Former Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi was arrested by Washington’s Capitol Hill Police for disrupting a congressional hearing on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, a bipartisan plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Menconi said he doesn’t enjoy getting arrested, but it has to happen — and he said sometimes it does — and he’s grateful to the Capitol Police. He even thanked them when he was done.
Some Good Samaritans
• A memorable Memorial Day — Memorial Day was memorable for a woman whose life was saved when a police officer administered two doses of the anti-overdose medication Narcan.
Vail Police Officer Greg Schwartz responded to the Four Seasons Resort Vail in the early morning hours and found a 32-year-old woman in a large walk-in closet. The woman was unresponsive as her friends administered CPR. Schwartz soon heard the woman’s friends talking about heroin, so he gave her a dose of Narcan. The first was not effective, so Schwartz gave her another, Vail police said.
That second dose did the trick, and the woman was rushed to the hospital. Colorado has a Good Samaritan law, and the witnesses who called 911 were cooperative. They were not prosecuted.
Wildfires have become more numerous, bigger and more destructive in the past 40 years. That’s a big deal in a town surrounded by public land.