Routt County Judge James Garrecht reduced bail bond and set a preliminary hearing for a Steamboat Springs woman charged with criminal impersonation and forgery.
On Thursday, Sara Sue Foland, 48, of Steamboat Springs appeared in Routt County Court, where she asked for a personal recognizance bond so she could return to Montana to seek treatment for a rare heart condition.
Foland was arrested in Missoula, Mont., and booked into the Routt County Jail on Sept. 23 on charges she impersonated an acquaintance, withdrew more than $30,000 from the woman's Steamboat Springs bank account and charged more than $14,000 on credit cards illegally obtained in the woman's name.
Garrecht reduced her $500,000 bond to $250,000. Foland also has a $20,000 bond for previous charges that she forged documents to get a job as a physician's assistant in a local doctor's office, and in that job, without legitimate state credentials, assisted in surgeries and office procedures and wrote numerous prescriptions for medications, including controlled substances such as Percocet, OxyContin and Valium.
Garrecht set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 15 for the impersonation and forgery case, and the first case will be held in district court.
In court, Foland told Garrecht that she suffered from a rare heart arrhythmia that only five doctors in the United States treat. The arrhythmia generally causes her heart to stop for one to five seconds, she said. The condition potentially could cause her heart to stop for up to a minute, which she said could be fatal.
"The episodes are becoming more frequent and more severe," she said.
Deputy District Attorney Erick Knaus questioned Foland's medical condition and cautioned the judge that Foland has a history of pretending to be someone she is not.
"I am not a medical expert, but I am in a position to disagree with this woman," Knaus said. "I just don't believe you can take this woman's word."
While in Montana, Foland said she was receiving treatment at the International Heart Institute of Missoula, where she was halfway through an evaluation. She said she needed to complete that evaluation to determine what medicine she needed and if surgery was necessary.
She said she has a friend, the lead public defender in Missoula, who would drive to Steamboat and bring her back to Montana. In Montana, Foland said she would stay with the woman.
She also told Garrecht that she has owned a house in Routt County for 10 years and owns a consulting business in Steamboat. Routt County Assessor's Office records show that Foland owns a 3,900-square-foot home in the Game Trails subdivision that the assessor's office valued at close to $600,000.
"I have been here and have owned a home here for 10 years," Foland said. "I need to make payments and maintain that home. And I also have a business."
Knaus said Foland remained a flight risk.
Knaus said that her house could be foreclosed and that an investigation has shown that furniture was covered in her house and it looked closed up.
He also said that other cases involving similar patterns of stealing are under investigation in Montana and Kansas. He said that clients of her business also have concerns.
"It is the victims that I want you to consider," Knaus told Garrecht, and he went on to describe Foland as manipulative, premeditative and predatory.
Garrecht asked Foland how she could afford a $600,000 house. Foland said she was a geologist for years with Amoco Production Co. and was the CEO of the Geological Society of America. A Web search found numerous biographies stating Foland was CEO of the organization from 1999 to 2001.
While in college, Foland said she worked as an assistant to an accredited surgeon, and after retirement, began working as an operating room assistant because it gave her "something to do."
Foland was arrested Sept. 11 in Missoula after she allegedly tried to purchase a $140,000 motor home using an assumed name, which she also used to obtain credit for the purchase, according to court documents. Police investigating the case suspect that Foland got a driver's license and passport in the alleged victim's name earlier in the summer. The victim, who used to live in Steamboat, is 54 years old and works as a teacher in the Cherry Creek School District.
After obtaining the driver's license and passport in the woman's name, Foland reportedly withdrew $30,000 from the woman's bank account, according to court documents.
Before withdrawing the money, she reportedly attempted unsuccessfully to get a $30,000 unsecured loan in the victim's name.
At the time Foland was arrested in Montana, she was out on bond in a different Routt County case that also involved forgery and criminal impersonation, as well as distribution of controlled substances.
According to court documents related to an investigation conducted by the District Attorney's Office, Foland allegedly forged an application for licensure as a physician's assistant.
Foland then got two medical jobs in Steamboat Springs: one as an operating room technician at Yampa Valley Medical Center and another as a physician's assistant at Orthopaedics of Steamboat Springs, where she worked from September 2003 to January 2004.