Steamboat Springs Pamela Jean Williams changed course Tuesday and pleaded guilty to felony theft and forgery charges for her role in embezzling about $1.3 million from the Steamboat Springs branch of Alpine Bank and some of its account holders.
As part of her plea agreement, any prison sentence Williams receives will be capped at 10 years, said Routt County Court Judge James Garrecht, who accepted Williams' plea Tuesday afternoon. All other terms of sentencing will be at the court's discretion, Garrecht said.
"What we accomplished today was Pam taking responsibility for something she's always wanted to take responsibility for," Williams' attorney, Charles Feldmann, said.
Williams was due to stand trial in February. She originally pleaded not guilty Aug. 13 to five counts each of felony theft and forgery.
Feldmann was optimistic that Williams would receive far less than the maximum sentence allowed under her plea agreement, and said that the ongoing court proceedings have thus far limited his client from telling her side of the story.
"I hope to make the case that she deserves a shot at probation," Feldmann said. "I think there's a drastic difference between her and the co-defendant."
Williams' co-conspirator, Terri Dawn Moody Fatka, already is serving time for her role in stealing the money. Fatka pleaded guilty to four counts each of felony theft and forgery June 23 and was sentenced to eight years in prison Aug. 27.
In its pre-sentence investigation, the Probation Department recommended Fatka be sentenced to 12 years in prison, but Judge Shelley Hill agreed to the lesser term because Fatka had cooperated with investigators.
Fatka will serve five years of mandatory parole after her release and will have to pay an undetermined amount of restitution. The court has yet to decide what that number will be, Fatka's attorney, Erick Knaus, said Tuesday.
In interviews with investigators in June, Fatka said she and Williams handpicked people who kept poor track of their accounts and stole the funds a little at a time, using forged advice of charge slips. They spent the money on lavish Vegas vacations, cars and jewelry, among other expenses.
After its internal investigation, Alpine Bank tallied the total stolen by the two women at more than $1.3 million. Prosecutors have characterized the embezzlement as the largest known theft in Routt County history.
At Fatka's August sentencing hearing, Alpine Bank President Adonna Allen described the financial and emotional hardship the thefts had placed on the bank and its customers. The bank reimbursed its six affected account holders, spent more than 100 hours on the ensuing internal investigation, and suffered immeasurable damage to its reputation in the community, Allen said.
Williams is due to appear in Routt County District Court for sentencing at 9 a.m. Feb. 9, before retired Judge Paul McLimans. McLimans was assigned to Williams' trial after Hill recused herself because she is friends with an Alpine Bank officer.