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Past school board chief gets 6-10 years in prison

Apr 11, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Gary Anderson pleaded guilty to stealing millions of dollars from the Riverton business he worked for.

The ex-financial manager of two family-owned Riverton companies will spend the next six to 10 years behind bars after admitting he stole millions of dollars from the businesses.

"Over these past few years, I've been able to see the human emotional toll on my family," Gerald Emil Anderson said.

Based on testimony heard at Wednesday's three-hour sentencing, Anderson said it was obvious his actions have also had a toll on the victims.

"Friendships have been shattered and lives have been changed," the 55-year-old Riverton man said. "I'm sorry that so much has gone into having to deal with me, not only in their lives, but also in court."

Per a plea agreement filed in January, Anderson at the April 10 hearing pleaded guilty to two felony counts of larceny by bailee for stealing from Star-Tech Inc. and Precision Analysis.

Anderson had held the financial manager position for Star-Tech since 1989, and he performed bookkeeping and payroll services for Precision Analysis since about 2007, according to court documents filed in 2010.

Star-Tech is owned by Charles Starks. Cory Fabrizius, Starks's grandson, and wife Heidi own Precision Analysis.

The Fremont County Attorney's Office accused Anderson of embezzling more than $2.5 million from 2000 through 2010 by stealing money for himself and his family members.

'Alford' pleas

Under the agreement, Anderson entered what is known as "Alford" pleas, which means he admits guilt to the charges but maintains innocence with an understanding that it is likely prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict.

"Because these are Alford pleas, the defendant will not be called upon under oath to give a factual basis," Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Marvin L. Tyler of Sublette County explained.

Anderson's attorney, Jeff Stanbury, told the court the type of plea was necessary due to the companion federal proceedings Anderson is involved in regarding tax liability.

Had Anderson entered guilty pleas, Stanbury said any testimony his client provided to establish a factual basis could be used against him in the federal case.

The plea agreement stipulates that Anderson will serve six to 10 years in the Wyoming Department of Corrections for the first charge followed by eight to 10 years for the second charge. The sentence for the second charge will be suspended in lieu of 10 years of supervised probation.

Tyler granted time served to apply to the prison sentence, which sat at 315 days on Wednesday.

"Overall, this plea agreement, in my view, is rather lenient," Tyler said.

He noted the "some 70 charges" Anderson originally faced in the criminal case being boiled down to two. He also explained it was hard to determine if Anderson accepted responsibility because he was not required to testify about his actions.

"It seems to lack accountability," Tyler said about the Alford pleas.

Despite repeating being bothered by the situation, the Judge said he could see the benefits for such agreement.

"Overall, this is probably a fair disposition," he said.

Tyler dismissed the 76 other original charges without prejudice, meaning they could be re-filed in the future.

He also ordered Anderson pay $1.5 million in restitution.

"We thought it was very thorough, and we thought Judge Tyler was very thorough," Kim Fabrizius said after the hearing. "We were very pleased with sentencing. It was a great sense of closure."

Civil suit

Anderson has remained in jail on a $250,000 bond since his May 30, 2012 arrest.

The criminal charges followed civil litigation launched by Starks and Cory and Heidi Fabrizius three years ago, accusing Anderson of embezzlement. At the conclusion of a seven-day trial in Lander in December 2011, a jury found that Anderson had taken close to $1.5 million while working as the companies' financial manager.

The amount awarded by the jury was substantially less than the roughly $4.8 million the families had sought. District Judge Norman E. Young ruled that the statute of limitations applied in the civil case, so the parties could not seek damages prior to mid-2006.

Testimony

To establish a factual basis, Fremont County deputy prosecuting attorney Pat LeBrun called Riverton accountant Carmen Milbury to testify at Anderson's sentencing about her investigation into the finances of Star-Tech and Precision Analysis.

Milbury told Tyler and the two dozen people sitting in the court gallery Precision Analysis in 2010 asked her to look at the payroll and make sure it was being done properly. She also reviewed a loan the business had with Star-Tech.

"I found some strange entries," Milbury testified. "And it snowballed from there."

Milbury said her investigation revealed more than 100 checks from the businesses issued to Anderson, signed by Anderson and deposited into his account.

Milbury said she discovered more than $3 million of improprieties by Anderson between 1994 and 2010.

Several members of the Starks and Fabrizius families testified about how Anderson's "greed" had a ripple effect on the business owners, their loved ones and the 70 to 80 employees who lost their jobs when Star-Tech had to close.

"He heartlessly stole for years and years from people," Marilyn Starks said, calling Anderson a "master of weaving one lie after another."

She talked about the many victims involved that fell at the hands of Anderson.

"No one was safe from your greed," she continued.

Testimony included how Anderson would create false bills and loans for the companies to pay that he was the recipient of.

Heidi Fabrizius's father, Bob Fowler, talked about how Anderson e-mailed his daughter and son-in-law about needing more than $1 million to pay on loans for Precision Analysis. The loans were later deemed to be nonexistent.

"You were and are a hardened criminal," Fowler said. "You knew how to do it ,and you were successful."

Rhonda Fowler said Anderson had multiple homes, an airplane, condos, a cabin, jewelry, "stacks of gold" and big bank accounts while her daughter's family struggled financially to provide for their children.

Many testified about Anderson abusing his leadership role as bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"He knew that because of his position in the church, we trusted him," Rhonda Fowler said.

Cory Fabrizius said he trusted Anderson for years as a church leader, family friend and Riverton school board member.

"I admired Gary Anderson," he said. "We trusted him completely, without reservations."

Charles Starks said he learned about Anderson stealing while he and Marilyn were on a two-year mission in the Philippines helping high school graduates obtain loans through the LDS church to attend college and trade schools.

Four months into the trip, Starks discovered checks issued to an aircraft company.

"I left you in charge as trustee of my trust and to protect my assets," Starks said to Anderson. "This was a major betrayal from you."

Starks said Anderson claimed the two had some sort of an agreement, which Starks said was untrue.

Starks detailed the many lumps of money Anderson stole, including $75,000 three days after Anderson spoke at Starks's first wife Thelma's funeral in 2005.

"You did this to Thelma, to me," Starks said, pausing. "You did it to our family and you still wonder why we filed suit against you."

Starks pointed out Anderson's thievery was on top of his $65,000 to $70,000 salary.

'Open wounds'

"Mr. Anderson has relived this with the victims as well," Stanbury said, adding his client is a man of faith who seeks closure for him and the victims.

"They were good friends," Stanbury said of Anderson and the victims' families. "There are obvious open wounds. ... Closure will heal those wounds."

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