Pressler guilty of embezzling, tax fraud
A jury Thursday afternoon convicted Erin Pressler of New Castle of stealing from her employer, illegally collecting Social Security disability payments and filing false tax returns, among other crimes.
Jurors deliberated about three and a half hours before reaching the verdict in District Court in Glenwood Springs. Sentencing was set for March 4.
Pressler’s trial, delayed several times since she was originally charged, began Jan. 19 with about 1½ days of jury selection before the presentation of evidence began.
Prosecutors said Pressler embezzled as much as $180,000 while working from 2009 to 2012 at Designer Door Hardware of Glenwood Springs, owned by Jim Pribil. Along with theft from the business, she was charged with stealing from the Social Security Administration and filing false tax reports.
Her defense argued that Pribil gave Pressler permission to use company money to pay off some debt and that the case wholly depended upon his word about what was or was not authorized spending.
Pressler was convicted on eight counts in all. The first count was theft from Pribil, doing business as Designer Door Hardware. Accompanying that charge were two dozen company checks made out to Pressler’s credit card accounts.
Next was a count of theft from the Social Security Administration. Pressler was accused of collecting Social Security benefits that generally shouldn’t have been paid if she had notified the administration that she was working again.
Count three was a charge of second-degree burglary, stemming from the night in 2012 right after she quit Designer Door when prosecutors said she trespassed at the business to commit a computer crime — which was another count against her.
During the trial, Sarah Pagni, the wife of New Castle Police Chief Tony Pagni and another employee of Designer Door, testified that she let Pressler use her key after Pribil changed the locks. Pressler claimed to have personal items and documents in the building that she wanted to get without running into Pribil, according to Pagni’s testimony.
Pagni also testified that Pressler persuaded Pagni to sign company checks that would eventually pay off thousands of dollars of Pressler’s credit card debt.
Pressler, Pagni testified, convinced her that Pribil wanted her to occasionally sign Designer Door Hardware checks with his name. In all, she signed six company checks that Pressler brought to her. Pressler said that Pagni had better handwriting, so she could more easily imitate their boss’s signature, Pagni testified.
Pribil told police that just days after Pressler quit, he found the accounting software from his computer deleted, and the prosecution said Pressler deleted the program in an attempt to hide three years of embezzlement.
Pressler also was convicted of four counts of failing to claim on her income taxes the money she stole.
The trial was oft-delayed.
A trial was scheduled in April 2014 when Pressler had a private attorney. But proceedings had to be postponed after the attorney withdrew, citing nonpayment and irreconcilable differences with Pressler.
A trial began in January 2015, but Judge Denise Lynch declared a mistrial after a juror and an alternate juror were dismissed for reasons never made public. The next trial date, set for April 2015, also didn’t work. The assigned prosecutor was leaving the district attorney’s office, and the replacement prosecutor was disqualified because of involvement in the investigation that could have made him a witness.
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