Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Embezzler sentenced to 6 years

Prosecutor says defendant committed ‘thousands of felonies’


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Tracy Dalin, a former secretary and real estate agent with Sun Land Investments in Bellevue, awaits sentencing Monday in Blaine County 5th District Court on felony charges of embezzlement and forgery Photo by Willy Cook

Defense attorney Andrew Parnes asked that his client be placed on probation so she could continue teaching at Bliss High School, but instead 52-year-old Tracy Dalin was led from court in handcuffs Monday to begin a six-year prison sentence for embezzlement and forgery.

At the sentencing hearing in Blaine County 5th District Court, Judge Robert Elgee ordered that Dalin serve two years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

Some of a half-dozen family members who attended the hearing cried openly as Dalin was taken from court. Before leaving, she mouthed the words to them, “I’m sorry.”

Parnes argued before sentence was pronounced that if incarceration was required, Dalin, who lives in Gooding, be allowed to serve her time there, with work release allowed so she could continue to teach home economics. He said Bliss High School authorities had told him that the arrangement would be acceptable because she was a valued teacher.

Before becoming a teacher, Dalin, who previously lived in Fairfield, was a secretary and real estate agent for Sun Land Investments in Bellevue. She left Sun Land Investments in 2009 after company owner Judy Cash became suspicious that Dalin had been stealing large amounts of money, not only from the company but from Cash personally and from Cash’s close friend Ron Farwell over a seven-year period. Court records show that in addition to managing the Sun Land Investments finances, Dalin was entrusted to manage the personal accounts of Cash and Farwell.

Following a two-and-a-half-year investigation by the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, Dalin was arrested in August 2011 and charged with eight felonies. Until sentencing Monday, she had remained free on $25,000 bond.

In a plea agreement with the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in June, Dalin pleaded guilty to two felony charges—one of grand theft by embezzlement and one of forgery—in exchange for dismissal of the other counts. Sentencing was delayed for several months while the defense and prosecution argued about how much Dalin would be required to pay in restitution.

In court Monday, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback said Dalin used complicated account transfer schemes to hide her thefts, and that determining exactly how much she took was nearly impossible, though he estimated it at $500,000. He acknowledged that she had repaid some money to Sun Land Investments even before the company grew suspicious of her.

Ultimately, a restitution agreement was worked out that required Dalin to repay $75,000. Fredback said Dalin’s family had raised $50,000 toward restitution but that Dalin still owed $25,000.

At the hearing, Parnes acknowledged that his client had taken money but said the amounts suggested by Fredback were exaggerated.

Fredback asked that Dalin be sentenced to 12 rather than six years in prison, arguing that “she went literally seven years committing thousands of felonies with Sun Land Investments.”

“This is a very complicated and sophisticated embezzlement scheme,” Fredback said, explaining that Dalin “forged” bank statements to hide missing money and set up a separate post office box accessible only to her to conceal the thefts from Sun Land and Cash.

He said Dalin made “literally thousands of unauthorized transactions” from various Sun Land, Cash and Farwell accounts to keep the thefts hidden.

In his ruling, Elgee said that had $50,000 not been paid in restitution, he would have imposed a “much more severe” sentence, noting that both embezzlement and forgery are punishable by up to 14 years each. He called Dalin’s repayment of the money “a step in the right direction.”

He said a prison sentence was deserved because Dalin had engaged in a “very complicated” and “very well-thought-out” theft scheme that “went on daily.”

“Ms. Dalin was keeping her own accounting, very complicated, very sophisticated, when she wasn’t entitled to that money,” the judge said. “The degree of deception, fraudulent bank statements prepared, the size of those transactions is staggering.”

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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