A former Aspen city councilman, mayoral candidate and Aspen Skiing Co. executive pleaded guilty Monday to systematically stealing from his bosses for years.
Derek Johnson, 52, faces between four and 12 years in prison after admitting in Pitkin County District Court felony theft of stealing between $100,000 and $1 million from Skico between June 2013 and January 2019.
And while police and prosecutors previously have alleged that Johnson and his wife, Kerri, stole more than $2.4 million worth of Skico-owned skis, snowboards and other goods during his 17-year history with the company, Derek Johnson will only have to pay back $250,000, Pam Mackey, his Denver-based lawyer said in court Monday.
Before his plea to felony theft was official Monday, District Judge Chris Seldin asked Johnson what he did that made him guilty.
“I acquired some items without permission,” he said. “However, during sentencing, I’m looking forward to explaining some of the circumstances surrounding that.”
Asked if he knew what he did constituted the crime of theft, Johnson hedged a bit.
“Certainly not initially,” he said. “But I made some poor choices and that is the case.”
Johnson, who was fired by Skico in December, helped found D&E Snowboard Shop and sold it to Skico in 2001, when he became the company’s retail-rental division managing director. He served one term on the Aspen City Council from 2009 to 2013 and ran for mayor in 2013.
Besides the cap on restitution, the District Attorney’s Office did not make any other concessions on the sentencing parameters, Mackey said. Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 21.
In a statement released Monday morning, Skico officials said they “continue to be deeply saddened by this whole situation.”
“While Derek Johnson’s public admission of responsibility for these serious crimes is an important first step in finding closure for Aspen Skiing Company, that process will take significant time,” according to the statement. “These crimes impacted a number of people, caused them emotional trauma that continues to this day, damaged trust and had financial impacts on individuals and on the company.”
Kerri Johnson also appeared in court Monday, though her case was continued until Dec. 16. She currently faces a raft of felony charges including two counts of theft of $1 million or more, two other counts of theft and two counts of conspiracy to commit theft.
Prosecutor Don Nottingham has offered Kerri Johnson a plea deal, and the two sides had a two-hour meeting about it last week, said Beth Krulewitch, her attorney. However, the two sides need more time to communicate, she said.
“This is a huge decision for my client,” Krulewitch said, noting that the couple has three children.
This is a developing story that will be updated.