Colorado revenue worker stole for love
Love motivated Michelle Cawthra to steal $11 million from the Colorado Department of Revenue and funnel the tax returns into her ex-boyfriend's bank accounts.
Cawthra testified Wednesday that she falsified documents and created fake businesses so that her former lover, Hysear Randell, could receive millions in tax refunds in order to pay for his business ventures, delinquent child support, land deals, diamond jewelry and expensive cars.
Some of the transactions, which took place over more than two years, were in the thousands of dollars and included money from unclaimed taxpayer refunds.
Cawthra told the jury that she often used her co-workers' computer passwords to adjust tax returns so that the trail did not come back to
"I did things I don't think I otherwise would have done had I not been in love with him," Cawthra testified.
Prosecutor Kandace Gerdes asked Cawthra what Randell needed in exchange for love.
"Money, I guess," Cawthra said, and began to cry.
Cawthra also told Gerdes that except for a few pieces of jewelry and a couple of trips, she did not live a luxurious lifestyle and did not share in the money she stole for Randell.
"I did what I was told," she said.
Randell, 42, is on trial in Denver District Court on multiple criminal charges including violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, theft by receiving, forgery and computer crime.
Randell's defense lawyer, Scott Reisch, said that his client did not know Cawthra, 32, was stealing money from her employer, but thought the money was coming from her family trust fund.
Reisch tried to show the jury that Cawthra was a woman obsessed with making Randell her "Prince Charming" by luring him away from his wife, Trudy Randell, with money. Trudy Randell was also charged in the case and has pleaded guilty to theft but has not yet been sentenced.
Cawthra's testimony is part of a plea deal with prosecutors. She later hopes to reduce the 24-year prison sentence she is serving.
Cawthra testified she did not have a family trust fund and that while she did try to lure Randell away from his wife, he knew the money was coming from the state of Colorado. The two met in 2002 at the Department of Revenue, when Randell briefly worked in the mailroom as a temporary employee.
She told Gerdes that before they were arrested in 2007, Randell again asked her to take money, but this time he wanted her to try and get $13 million to $14 million in one shot.
"As this went on over time there was more and more pressure to get more and more money and it was hard and the pressure was making me crack," Cawthra said.
Ex-Revenue supervisor gets 24 years in theft
A former Colorado Department of Revenue employee was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Friday and ordered to pay $10.8 million in restitution to the state.
Michelle Cawthra, 32, who was a supervisor in the Taxpayer Services Division, apologized during the sentencing hearing held in Denver District Court and said she took responsibility for her actions.
Cawthra's attorney asked Judge Sheila Rappaport to consider a community corrections sentence so she could work to pay back a portion of the money she stole, but the judge said she could not find any reason to be lenient and sent Cawthra to state prison.
Revenue director Roxy Huber appeared at the hearing and asked the judge to send a strong message in sentencing Cawthra.
"We are public servants that must be held to a higher standard," Huber said.
Grand-jury indictments say Cawthra funneled the money to her boyfriend, Hysear Randell, from August 2005 through 2007 to buy cars, jewelry, travel, real estate and to pay living expenses.
There were more than 50 transfers to various companies and entities in Randell's name ranging from $454 to $450,000.
Randell, 41, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in July.
Randell's wife, Trudy, 38, has pleaded guilty to theft and receiving more than $15,000. She will be sentenced Aug. 7.
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