Woman pleads guilty to stealing from Edwards Realtor | VailDaily.com

Woman pleads guilty to stealing from Edwards Realtor

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Eagle County Sheriff's OfficeDebra J. Irwin

EAGLE, Colorado ” A Leadville woman accused of embezzling $1.1 million and who later attempted suicide with her daughter has pleaded guilty to a felony, authorities said.

Debra J. Irwin, 56, pleaded guilty to stealing a portion of that $1.1 million from her former employer, Edwards real estate firm Altima Group, said Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.

“It’s all of the money we could prove that she stole,” Hurlbert said.

Prosecutors had charged Irwin with two felonies, theft and unauthorized use of a financial transaction device, Hurlbert said. Irwin’s jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday after she pleaded not guilty to those in October.

But prosecutors let Irwin plead guilty to a lesser theft charge earlier in March because Hurlbert said Irwin will be a convicted felon and also she agreed to pay back what she stole from the Altima Group.

“I believe she’s agreed to pay a significant portion” up front, Hurlbert said.

Susan Rollins, owner of Altima Group, said she pursued charges against Irwin so that Irwin could not steal from anyone else.

“No one can predict the future, but with a felony on her record that certainly will hinder it from happening again,” Rollins said.

Despite the theft, Rollins’ business is now doing better than ever, she said.

“No matter how much you trust someone, you just have to double check and recheck and triple check your books,” Rollins said.

Rollins accepted Irwin’s plea because she wanted Irwin to be punished, but also did not think Irwin could pay back all the money, said Rollins’ attorney, David Lugert. Irwin has been ordered to pay back a minimum of $40,000 to Rollins, Lugert said.

“That’s the kind of person Susan is,” he said. “She’s got a big heart.”

Jim Fahrenholtz, Irwin’s defense attorney, did not return a cell phone message requesting comment Tuesday.

Irwin faces up to $100,000 in fines and up to three years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced May 21. Irwin could get probation so she has the means to pay back the money, Hurlbert said.

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, Hurlbert said.

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

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