Steamboat Springs Judge Paul McLimans sentenced Pamela Jean Williams to eight years in prison Tuesday for her role in the theft of $1.3 million from Alpine Bank from 2004 to 2008.
Eight years is the same amount of time her conspirator, Terri Dawn Moody Fatka, received after pleading guilty June 23, 2008.
The two women also will be responsible for paying back the money they stole from the six account holders and the bank during that span. The sentence also includes mandatory probation for five years after their release.
During the Tuesday hearing at the Routt County Justice Center, Williams and her lawyer, Charles Feldmann, attempted to mitigate the role Williams played in the theft, blaming $968,000 of the theft on Fatka. Williams pleaded guilty to 10 felonies Dec. 9, 2008.
According to an audit prepared by Williams, the bulk of the money was taken using Fatka's computer. Williams said she only helped cover Fatka's tracks throughout the years of theft, although she also admitted to forging withdrawals and profiting from the thefts.
A total of more than 100 individual transactions - each of them thefts of $2,000 to more than $10,000 - happened from September 2004 to January 2008.
During Fatka's testimony at the hearing, wearing a prison-issue sweatshirt and shackles, she told the court that the women evenly split the withdrawals, either by meeting after work or by dividing the money at the bank.
"If she forged (the signature), I would do it on my computer. I would take the money, put it in an envelope and put it on her stand," Fatka said. "She would take it and put it in our purses."
Auditors for the prosecution, led by Routt County Deputy District Attorney Carl Stahl, said that account inquiries and withdrawals could be linked to the computers of both Fatka and Williams.
The pair also explained that they put holds on their victims' accounts so that account statements were re-routed to the bank instead of being sent to the customers' homes.
The victims were chosen, Fatka said, because they did not often check their accounts or did not keep good records of their money.
Alpine Bank President Adonna Allen told the court the women chose old and young victims, victims who could not speak English fluently and well-educated native English speakers.
Williams did not deny that she and Fatka worked together to steal the money from the customers but denied that she received half of the money. Williams said that Fatka bought new cars every six months, and said that she also bought new cars, but it was not as frequently.
In her closing statement to the judge, Williams began to cry as she apologized to her family and friends. She said she took responsibility for the crime, but also laid out a list of other factors - including alleged harassment at the bank by coworkers and Fatka's negative influence.
"I am me and I am honest and I care about what I did and I was never the mastermind," she said. "I only blame myself for my bad decisions. I got caught up with co-defendant Terri Fatka, who has been stealing since she was 15.
"I know this only sounds like excuses, but this is coming from my heart," she said.
McLimans said he did not think Williams had yet accepted her role in the theft.
"You, Miss Williams, simply don't get it," he said.
Williams' statement before her sentencing "is not reflective of someone who has digested what has gone on in the gist of this case," he said. "If her conscience was ever bothered, it seems she assuaged it by taking five trips to Las Vegas in one year. It was a crime spree that lasted years and consisted of huge sums of money."
Under a plea agreement coordinated under Judge Shelley Hill, who recused herself because she is the friend of an Alpine Bank officer, the maximum sentence for Williams was 10 years.
Feldmann's closing arguments centered on the cost of imprisonment. By his calculations, sending Williams to prison for 10 years, plus five years of parole, would cost $183,000.
"The question is, how much money are we willing to spend to have that 10-year lesson walk out the door?" he said. "Next year, we need these ladies out making restitution."
Stahl sought the maximum 10-year penalty.
McLimans said he did not believe the argument that Fatka was the ringleader of the pair, although he said it was hard to determine the truth between the two defendants.
"The court's impression of Ms. Fatka is, she is the far less sophisticated individual in this case. : She apparently never gets away with anything," McLimans said, referring to Fatka's prior theft arrest and removal from other jobs for theft. "Without (Williams') involvement in these actions, Ms. Fatka would have been detected far, far sooner than the number of years before the gig was up."
The judge said that even if Fatka's testimony was not included in the decision, Williams was responsible for the entire $1.3 million because of her admitted role in the conspiracy, and both women will be held jointly responsible for the restitution.
"In the nature of peas in a pod," McLimans said about the pair. "Rotten peas in a rotten pod."