Local accountant to take plea bargain

Faces a minimum of $70,000 in restitution

A local accountant accepted a plea bargain this month after being charged with embezzling money from a Crested Butte business.

 

 

Ansley Interiors owner Sara Potoker claims that her former accountant, Crested Butte South resident Paula Stepanek, stole in excess of $120,000 from the business over the course of several years. Potoker hired Stepanek in 2004 and believes she began taking money from business accounts after only a few months on the job.
After discovering some accounting inconsistencies last spring, Potoker alerted the Crested Butte Marshals that she believed she was a victim of theft. After a preliminary investigation, the Gunnison district attorney’s office took the case and charged Stepanek with five counts of felony theft.
A full trial was scheduled to begin on February 22, but district attorney Myrl Serra says Stepanek accepted a plea agreement the week before the scheduled trial. In the agreement, Stepanek pleaded “no contest” to a single count of theft series over $15,000, which is a class three felony.
Serra says a no contest plea agreement is usually taken in a criminal case when there is a separate civil case proceeding that involves the same set of facts and evidence. By pleading no contest, Serra says, the outcome of the criminal case cannot be used in the civil case. “It’s saying ‘I’m not admitting to or denying the charges, I’m just not going to fight it,’” Serra says.
Potoker says the plea agreement includes a minimum restitution of $70,000 to her business.
Stepanek will face a sentencing hearing on March 4, at which the court will decide her punishment. In Colorado, the statutory range of punishment for a class three felony is between four and 12 years in prison.
Potoker says there’s no telling yet how the restitution will get paid, as it could be within a matter of months, or drawn out over several years.
Potoker has also filed a separate civil case against Stepanek and her husband. Stepanek had asked the court to “stay,” or postpone, the civil case and the court agreed. Potoker says she intends to continue with the civil lawsuit once the criminal case is complete.
Stepanek’s attorney in the criminal case, Art Trezise, did not return phone calls for this article.

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