Sue Frank vows to repay stolen money: ‘I don’t care if it takes until the day I die…’
Fifth Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson denied a motion to reduce the sentence of a former Summit Association of Realtors CEO, who pleaded guilty to class-three felony theft in May.
Sue Frank, 62, was sentenced to five years in prison, having served one year of jail time so far. She would be parole eligible in February of 2017, with her mandatory release schedule for August of 2019.
“The only new evidence is Frank’s good behavior at the Department of Corrections,” Thompson said. “The court is not persuaded to change this sentence.”
Frank embezzled more than $415,000 in forged checks from the real estate nonprofit last year while acting as CEO. She had led the Summit Association of Realtors (SAR) for 18 years.
“The original sentence took account the character of the defendant, the needs of the community and the theft, which involved not just a substantial but a huge amount of money,” Thompson added, noting he could not see any realistic means of repayment.
Public defender Thea Reiff, who filed the motion to release Frank on parole, noted that Frank had been duped out of her money by one, or multiple, online scammers. She noted that Frank had wired them her personal money as well as the embezzled funds, under the belief that the money would be returned.
“I don’t think that was a theft just born out of abject greed,” Reiff said. “She was scammed herself.”
Frank stood to address the court, noting that she fully intended to repay the entire debt. She added that she intended to work multiple jobs after being released from prison, possibly applying horticulture and flower arranging courses she had taken at the DOC.
“I do take this responsibility very seriously,” she said. “I don’t care if it takes until the day I die…”
Reiff added that if released on parole, Frank might be able to sell her home in the Silverthorne area, hoping to remove about $100,000 from the debt.
“My goal is just to focus and make this right for everybody again, and hopefully someday I’ll get my family back too,” Frank added.
While several SAR members gathered in the courtroom to voice their opposition to a sentence reduction, a few wrote letters in support. Former SAR vice president Bruce Mitchell pointed to Frank’s track record with the organization, having successfully led them up to the point of the theft.
“Sue Frank is a good person who did a very bad thing,” he said. “She was exemplary in her service to our organization … . You will not see her in trouble ever again.”
However, several members spoke out in opposition. District Attorney Bruce Brown gestured to the 11 people in the gallery sitting behind him, noting, “This is a community that is heavily invested in this case.”
He opposed the defense’s motion, noting that the original sentence was already two years less than the time suggested by the District Attorney’s Office. He also noted her actions while on bond, adding that Frank had sent a directive to First Bank forbidding them to recapture the funds that had been sent overseas.
“The bottom line is, she can’t be trusted,” Brown said. “The court should err on the side of caution, community protection and consistency.”
SAR chair-elect Tom Harmon noted that the lost funds had affected the organization significantly, affecting both business and SAR’s ability to donate money to philanthropies at the same level as previous years.
“It’s cost a lot of people a lot of time,” he said. “We still haven’t sorted this mess out.”
Current chairman Dennis Clauer also stood to speak, adding that the theft had not only hurt the organization’s finances, but also their reputation.
“Our reputation not only locally, but across the state, it certainly took a hit,” Clauer said.
He alluded to the multiple other reported cases of embezzlement in Summit County throughout the year. Brown said that within the Fifth Judicial District, he had seen at least eight fraud cases, but this was one of the largest.
While the court denied the defense’s motion to decrease Frank’s sentence, both the prosecution and defense were able to agree the amount of restitution due to SAR. With an original debt of $425,000, Brown agree to stipulate to reduce it to about $418,000, after the defense noted Frank had paid $7,000 toward the debt.
Brown noted that they would also expect a total of about $210,000 in insurance money from First Bank, CNA Enterprises, and the National Association of Realtors, which could be subtracted from the total debt.
“The sad thing is we will likely never see a nickel, other than insurance,” Brown said.
While Reiff added that she did not think the money would ever be returned from the scammers, she maintained that Frank fully intended to pay back the cost of restitution.
“She’s very well aware she’s responsible for the taking and responsible for paying it back,” Reiff said. “I know the whole experience has not only been a punitive experience, but a humbling experience for her.”
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