Ryan’s lawyer says she’s no thief, just bad at business
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Shawnee Ryan, accused of bilking customers through her former interior design business, was not scheming to steal from her clients and customers, according to her defense attorney.
Rather, said defense attorney Kathy Goudy in court on Tuesday, Ryan herself is a victim of poor business skills, bad judgment and anger over being a target of name-calling and lawsuits by upset clients.
Ryan, 55, faces multiple counts of theft, check fraud and violation of bail bond conditions, stemming from incidents in which she allegedly defrauded as many as 40 customers.
Ryan was arrested and jailed in late 2010, following a year-long investigation by police and the Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s office.
She is free on a bond of $38,000. The trial begin on Monday with jury selection.
According to Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan, the defendant used what are known as “bait and switch” tactics against some of her customers.
She would take orders and payment from customers for certain goods, Bryan said, and then either furnish only part of the order, or substitute inferior products, or she would give the clients nothing at all but keep the money.
Bryan accused Ryan of establishing “a clear and distinct patter of deception and fraud,” using multiple business names and accounts in the names of other people to hide her activities.
And if clients tried to go directly to the artisans or the manufacturer, Bryan continued, “She [Ryan] would lose it. She would become aggressive.”
If the clients persisted, Bryan explained, Ryan would begin writing them letters that were “harassing, intimidating, retaliatory, even.”
In some cases, Bryan said, Ryan filed liens against the property of her alleged victims, “in hopes that the victim would just give up and walk away, and say it wasn’t worth it” to try to get their goods or their money back.
But Goudy said her client is simply a lousy business manager who let her business get away from her.
“She was not a good businesswoman at all,” Goudy told the jury in district court on Tuesday.
Sloppy bookkeeping, a narrow profit margin and other difficulties led to what Goudy called a “downward spiral” toward financial trouble.
Her financial difficulties included having her credit cards yanked, Goudy said, which in turn contributed to cash flow problems and led customers to begin complaining about their experiences at Ryan’s businesses.
One consequence, Goudy indicated, was a series of “anonymous comments” posted on the Internet, in which customers criticized Ryan’s business dealings, comparing her to “Satan” and “the devil.”
Ryan responded, Goudy told the court, out of her own sense of anger and frustration.
“It’s not polite, and it’s not nice, but it’s not criminal,” Goudy said to the jury. “Bad words are not a crime.”
Summing up the defense position, Goudy said of her client, “She’s not a schemer. This is a small businesswoman trying to make it work.”
The trial began on Monday and is scheduled to last until Aug. 20.
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