Polich sentenced to 7 years in prison in embezzlement case | SummitDaily.com

Polich sentenced to 7 years in prison in embezzlement case

Robert Polich
Courtesy photo

BRECKENRIDGE — Robert Polich, a Frisco man convicted of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Hamilton Creek Metropolitan District, was sentenced to seven years in prison during a hearing at the Summit County Justice Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Polich, 67, served as an administrator for the metro district, a quasi-governmental entity, from 1995 to 2015 in various capacities including financial management.

In 2014, Polich was arrested on a similar embezzlement case, in which he stole about $160,000 while working for the Enclave Homeowners Association in Keystone. Following his arrest in November 2014, metro district board members began looking into their own bookkeeping, and discovered that Polich had been embezzling funds from the district for years.

Polich pleaded guilty to felony theft in the 2014 Enclave HOA case and served 90 days in jail in addition to paying $160,000 in restitution and serving four years of probation. He was arrested again in 2015 after the new embezzlement allegations at the metropolitan district arose, but the case was dropped after a ruling that it should have been tied to the Enclave case because the charges stemmed from the same criminal episode.

In June 2018, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the multiple theft cases were dissimilar enough to be tried separately, and the case returned to district court. In September, Polich pleaded guilty to felony charges of theft and embezzlement of public property.

At the hearing Tuesday, prosecutors pointed to precedents set via sentences brought against past offenders in similar cases throughout the district  — including Dawna Foxx who was sentenced to five years in prison for taking $200,000 from the Breckenridge Film Festival in 2014, and Sue Frank who got five years for embezzling more than $415,000 from the Summit Association of Realtors in 2015.

Prosecutors also condemned Polich for taking advantage of his position of trust and for willingly deceiving his clients and the greater community for years.

“The theft happens because of an ability that these individuals have to gain trust, to be involved in their community and to somehow have people believe in them and never think that they’ll be victimized by that individual,” Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum said. “The crime becomes who they are and part of their daily lives. They’re stealing year after year. He’d go to all the board meetings, say hello and be as friendly as he can be — all the while lining his own pockets.”

Polich gave a statement in his own defense, downplaying the offense and saying that he “took too much liberty” with a policy to compensate himself for his work with the district. He continued to ask the court for mercy, requesting the judge allow him to continue working so that he could support his family, pay off his restitution and continue to contribute to the community.

Family members of Polich also spoke on his behalf, offering statements lauding him as an exemplary father and husband and asking for leniency in the sentencing. Kevin Cheney, Polich’s attorney, urged the court to give a more forgiving sentence, noting that Polich has been a model citizen during his four-year probation stint and isn’t a danger to the community.

“This case is unique in how the embezzlement took place and also the timing,” Cheney said. “There have been no allegations of criminal conduct in four years. Since the date he was sentenced in the 2014 case, there have been no allegations that he’s continued to steal or break the law. … Is it really worth hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to send a nonviolent, 67-year-old man to prison when he’s by all counts reformed over the last four years? … The Bob Polich that sits here today isn’t the same Bob Polich that stole that money four years ago.”

But Chief Judge Mark Thompson was unmoved by the defense’s arguments, sentencing Polich to seven years in prison. In addition to the prison sentence, the defense and prosecution also argued about the amount of restitution Polich should be required to pay — largely based off the expert testimony of Scott Saltzman, a forensic accountant who assisted in the case.

Saltzman, working with an incomplete set of financial records from the district, determined that Polich stole $306,200 at minimum. Though the defense was able to show that some of that money already had been paid back. Ultimately, Thompson ruled Polich must pay $253,450 in restitution.

“The thing most disturbing to the court, and it merits the most harsh sentencing, is the violation of public trust and the inability of Mr. Polich to be fully accountable,” Thompson said. “It’s an insult to the public, and the only thing that would suggest that a maximum sentence isn’t appropriate is the manner in which this court has treated other similar cases.”

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