Woman gets jail in embezzlement case | VailDaily.com

Woman gets jail in embezzlement case

Steve Lynn
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyDebra J. Irwin

EAGLE ” A Leadville woman who tried to commit suicide before she was arrested on suspicion of embezzling $1.1 million from her Edwards employer was sentenced to 90 days in jail Wednesday.

Debra J. Irwin, 56, pleaded guilty to stealing a fraction of that $1.1 million from her former employer, Susan Rollins of Altima Group, in March, said Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.

At a sentencing hearing Wednesday, District Court Judge R. Thomas Moorhead ordered Irwin to pay back $40,000, an amount prosecutor Steven Mallory and Irwin’s defense attorney Jim Fahrenholtz had agreed upon.

“I’m very ashamed for my actions,” Irwin sobbed as she apologized to Rollins.

“It’s not right in the eyes of God,” she added.

Rollins said she had treated Irwin like a family member through the years. Since she learned Irwin had embezzled money, Rollins said she has slept little.

“This process has been terrifying, heart-wrenching and devastating,” Rollins said.

Irwin is scheduled to begin serving 90 days in Eagle County Jail Wednesday morning. Moorhead also sentenced Irwin to four years of “intensive supervised probation,” with terms that include that Irwin not be able to open a bank account or make investments without permission from the court.

Irwin, who now works as a secretary for a development firm, also cannot control assets of a business, Moorhead said.

Prosecutors had charged Irwin with two felonies, theft and unauthorized use of a financial transaction device, Hurlbert has said.

Prosecutors let Irwin plead guilty to a lesser forgery charge earlier in March because Hurlbert said Irwin will be a convicted felon. Irwin also agreed to pay back $40,000, which was all prosecutors could prove Irwin stole, Hurlbert has said.

Fahrenholtz said Irwin, who has no prior criminal record, knew she “made mistakes,” but she did not steal what Rollins contended. Rollins had actually spent some of the money that she had accused Irwin of stealing, he said.

Fahrenholtz compared the case to the divorce of a couple who has been married for years and cannot agree on who owns what.

“You’ve got people that have irreconcilable differences,” Fahrenholtz said.

David Lugert, attorney for Rollins, disagreed. Irwin had, through several years, stolen as much as $1.1 million from Altima Group for fur, wigs, dinners, spas and massages, dental work, vacations to Las Vegas and Belize and others. Meanwhile, Rollins’ business suffered, Lugert said.

“It’s all in black and white in the reports from law enforcement,” Lugert said.

Lugert called the $40,000 in restitution a “compromise” to which Rollins had agreed.

Det. Doug Winters of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office told Moorhead that “today is the time for (Rollins) to receive the justice she deserves.”

Winters has investigated embezzlement cases in the past, but “This case struck me the hardest,” Winters said.

Debra Irwin and her daughter, Maureen Irwin, who also worked for Rollins, attempted suicide April 13 when police came to arrest Debra for her role in the embezzlement scheme, according to a Leadville Police Department report.

A man reported that he found Irwin and her daughter unconscious on the couch before police arrived.

No charges have been filed against Maureen Irwin.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at (970) 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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