Pressler gets 4 years in prison for embezzling
Erin Pressler, a New Castle woman convicted of embezzling what authorities say was more than $180,000 from her employer, was sentenced Friday to four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
The case began in 2012 when investigators began to uncover three years of embezzlement from Designer Door Hardware, where Pressler worked from 2009 to 2012. The prosecution has estimated that Pressler stole more than $180,000 from the Glenwood Springs business over that time.
As authorities dug into the case, Pressler’s charges stacked up. Investigators found that she was illegally collecting Social Security benefits, which she should have stopped receiving when she began working again, prosecutors said.
The Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s office later added charges of filing a false tax return for each year she didn’t claim that stolen income. In three of those years, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Barrett said, she actually reported negative income.
Burglary and computer crimes charges stemmed from a night when prosecutors say she illegally entered the Designer Door building to delete the accounting software in an attempt to cover up her theft.
The case then had a path of starts and stops with delays and even a mistrial.
A jury in January found Pressler guilty of all eight counts against her, which included two counts of theft in a series ($20,000 or more), a class 3 felony; burglary of a building, a class 4 felony; four counts of filing a false tax return, a class 5 felony; and misdemeanor computer crimes.
Of all the money Pressler took from the business, Barrett said about $110,000 went straight to her credit cards, which were used to pay for trips to Las Vegas, Cancun and Orlando. While other Americans were struggling through the recession, she was eating fine meals and lavishing her children with expensive clothes, he said.
Barrett also pointed to a $293,000 home she bought in 2013, and the $7,500 bond she was able to pay on the same day she was arrested.
Barrett asked for at least 12 years in prison for Pressler. After the sentencing he told the Post Independent that he believed her lack of criminal history was a mitigating factor that led him to ask for concurrent sentencing, meaning she will serve her terms on all counts at the same time.
The deputy district attorney encouraged the judge to make an example of Pressler to deter anyone who might be considering this type of crime.
“The community, judge, is listening,” Barrett said.
Jim Pribil, owner of Designer Door Hardware, said he never imagined when he opened the business that someone he trusted would embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from him – much less start stealing within the first month of being hired.
Pribil said Pressler had taken advantage of his lack of business skills, and all the while he was giving her raises and bonuses.
Rather than thinking about retiring or contributing money to his grandchildren’s college funds, Pribil said that at 67 years old he’s still having to work 40 hours a week. He asked the judge to level the “maximum punishment allowable by law.”
Pressler kept her head bowed during much of the hearing, weeping at some points.
Public Defender Molly Owens, Pressler and several of her friends and family who spoke on her behalf alluded to aspects of the case that never made it into the trial.
The jury was not allowed to hear major parts of the story, including Jim Pribil’s history of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, specifically toward Pressler, said Owens.
In a prepared statement, Pressler said she hadn’t testified because there had been so many stipulations about what could be introduced as evidence that she didn’t want to get on the stand and not tell the whole story. “You haven’t heard the other side,” she told the judge.
The prosecution also threatened to come after Pressler’s husband with charges, said Owens. But Judge Lynch shut down comments on that issue.
Owens requested a probation sentence instead of jail time, at least pending the result of their appeal.
The public defender also cited a trend of no jail time for other Colorado defendants convicted of similar charges.
Rehabilitation is among the primary purposes of criminal punishment, Owens said, and a prison sentence has no purpose but retribution, which is no appropriate under these circumstances.
Lynch said she disagreed with the sentiment that the crimes were not serious because they were nonviolent. The people who commit white-collar crimes are often next-door neighbors who don’t look like criminals, and sometimes they’re even stellar members of the community, she said.
She sentenced Pressler to four years in prison on the theft and burglary charges, three years on each of the false tax return charges and 90 days jail in the computer crimes charge. All of those sentences are to run concurrently.
Restitution in the criminal case will remain open for 91 days following the sentence.
After the several hiccups in the case’s path, Barrett said after the hearing that he was glad it was over at the trial court level.
“I’m glad that the jury agreed with the state’s evidence and found her guilty of every single charge that we had accused her of.”
“While I don’t see it as likely, I hope Mrs. Pressler someday takes responsibility for this, learns from it and doesn’t do it again.”
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