Alleged victims paint Ryan as a bully and thief
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Witnesses on Wednesday described accused thief Shawnee Ryan as bullying, threatening and deceptive in their dealings with her, on the second day of testimony in Ryan’s trial in Ninth District Court.
Ryan, 55, is accused of bilking as many as 40 different customers and suppliers of thousands of dollars over several years, while she ran a series of interior design shops in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Defense attorney Kathy Goudy, however, said in her opening statement on Tuesday that Ryan is guilty of no more than being a poor businesswoman and exercising bad judgment.
Initial charges against Ryan, filed in May 2010, include six counts of felony theft based on a year-long investigation by local authorities. She remains free on a $38,000 bond.
Ryan also was charged in September 2010 with check fraud and violating bail bonds conditions, after she was arrested for allegedly bouncing a check while on bail awaiting trial on the original charges.
Ryan was operating out of shops located in Glenwood Springs and Basalt dating back to at least 2007. Duir Design, Glenwood Design Center, Interiors By You and Midvalley Blinds and Spreads sold locally made arts and crafts items, and Ryan offered consulting on interior design projects.
Gary Russell of New Castle, an artistic ironworker with a shop in Rifle, testified for the prosecution that he put 14 pieces of his work in the Duir Designs shop in 2007.
“She had a lot of nice looking artwork,” he said. “Most of it was handmade by local artists.”
After meeting with her at her shop, located in the Glenwood Meadows shopping center, Russell reached a verbal consignment agreement under which Ryan’s share of any sales would be “20 to 30 percent,” Russell told the jury on Tuesday.
One time, Ryan paid him $300 for several small pieces, he testified.
But he never got paid, he said, for a larger piece of wall art for which he expected to get $3,000 to $4,000.
Ryan called him one day, he said, to tell him she had a buyer for the piece at a price tag of $5,000, which Russell estimated would net him $3,200 or so.
He sent her an invoice, and went on a business trip to Wyoming, Russell continued. He contacted Ryan when he got back to the valley to talk about placing another large piece in her store.
“She said, ‘What the hell are you doing calling me?'” he testified. “She said, ‘You can come and get your [stuff] out of my store, now.'”
Perplexed, he went to the shop and got his artwork, but he never got the $3,200, he told the jury.
What he did get from Ryan in October 2008 was, he said, “a nasty letter telling me she doesn’t want my stuff in her store.”
Russell said the letter stated, “Energy like this from you is not welcome at Duir.”
He said he never got paid, despite filing a small claims suit against Ryan.
He even got a call from a collection agency seeking money from Russell on Ryan’s behalf.
“I laughed and I said, ‘You’d better check on these people before you start making these phone calls,'” Russell recalled, adding that he never heard from the collection agency again.
Another witness for the prosecution, Carla Osterberg of Missouri Heights, testified that in August of 2008, Ryan agreed to help her design a kitchen for a new house that Osterberg and her husband were building.
Ryan’s job was to figure out how to install some custom kitchen cabinets that the Osterbergs already owned. Ryan agreed to do it for a flat fee of $500, which Osterberg said she paid by credit card.
Osterberg described weeks of email correspondence and delays, during which Ryan repeatedly claimed to be working on a plan that she would deliver soon. But no plan appeared.
When Osterberg became insistent, according to her testimony, Ryan accused Osterberg of having procrastinated in coming to Ryan in the first place, of hounding her unfairly, and threatened to charge the Osterbergs $200 per hour for time spent on the project.
“I will not be pushed like this,” Osterberg quoted from a Ryan email.
“I was offended,” Osterberg said. “I didn’t feel like this response was at all in line with what we had discussed.” She said Ryan continued to threaten “to arbitrarily increase my bill.”
Osterberg said she emailed Ryan asking for her money back and to terminate the business relationship.
Ryan’s response, Osterberg testified, was a return email that stated, “It is always one trying to get something for nothing that do this. Unbelievable.”
Ryan ultimately billed Osterberg for more than $1,900, at $200 an hour, a rate to which Osterberg said she never agreed.
In addition, Osterberg said Ryan filed a lien on the couple’s home when they stopped payment on the $500 credit card charge. Osterberg also testified that Ryan threatened to smear the reputation of Osterberg’s husband’s contracting business.
Osterberg said Ryan also accused her of “bullying and leaching ways” that would “backfire” unless Ryan’s demands were met, Osterberg said.
The message, Osterberg said, was, “Either I give her money, or she leaves the lien in place.” The lien would have jeopardized the Osterbergs’ ability to obtain a mortgage to pay off the construction financing of their new home.
Osterberg said she finally paid Ryan $311 to remove the lien.
The trial is scheduled to continue until Aug. 20.
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