By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Until two years ago, Marcia Simmons thought of herself as a pretty lucky woman. She wasn't fabulously rich, but she did have what mattered to her: an adoring husband, a nice home, and comfortable sums tucked away in mutual funds, retirement accounts and savings bonds for her kids' education. She had no money worries to speak of.
A single trip to Kmart changed all that. Now the fifty-year-old journalism instructor's money worries have become truly unspeakable, a nightmare of debt, overdue taxes, liens, judgments and empty bank accounts -- cleaned out, she claims, by the man she trusted most in the world.
In recent months, Simmons has uncovered disturbing information about John Lindstedt, the husband she never really knew. She's learned a thing or two about the laxity of banks and the hurdles involved in pursuing a fraud case against your own spouse. And she's been deeply frustrated by what she considers the foot-dragging of cops and prosecutors, two beats she used to cover as a radio and television reporter.
"Working with the criminal-justice system has been a true eye-opener," she says. "It's been almost as bad as going through the crime. I feel powerless."
The education has been a costly one for Simmons, who figures she's out several hundred thousand dollars. But she still doesn't have answers to the questions that haunt her the most: where the money went, and why.
Even in clear-cut cases, spousal fraud complaints can be difficult to pursue. Prosecutors say there have been "problems" with the Lindstedt case, including some generated by Simmons's own actions or inaction. In August, Lindstedt reached a plea agreement in Broomfield that requires him to repay $9,000 taken from a stepson's college funds; through his lawyers, he's suggested that Simmons had "full knowledge" of his use of her accounts and is simply a disgruntled ex. But Simmons insists that Lindstedt committed a much larger fraud against her and her children, for which criminal charges have never been filed -- and that he has a pattern of predatory behavior that goes back years.
"It took me ten months to get it through my thick skull that this guy really ripped me off and that he was walking away and really didn't care about his kids," she says. "I believed in him right up until the end."
Simmons met Lindstedt in 1992 at Johnny's, a LoDo watering hole partly owned by Lindstedt. Simmons, a former Albuquerque TV journalist, was working as a reporter at KOA Radio at the time and recovering from the death of her first husband, an assistant district attorney. She had two sons but was hardly a struggling single mom: Her husband's life insurance, a small inheritance and the sale of property in New Mexico had provided her with a net worth in excess of half a million dollars.
Three years younger than Simmons, Lindstedt had already been married twice. He was from a well-to-do, well-respected Oregon family, the son of a church deacon. Simmons says she was impressed by his fondness for children. The two began dating and soon had a child of their own, William, born in 1993. The couple married in 1996.
By then, Lindstedt had left Johnny's. He held a series of restaurant management jobs, while Simmons drifted into public relations, freelance television production and back to school for a master's degree. In the late 1990s, Lindstedt decided to change careers.
"We decided it would be good for him to learn real estate," Simmons recalls. "He registered for an online course and was always on the computer in the basement. His dad, his family, everyone was so proud that he'd finally found something that was going to work for him."
Lindstedt soon announced that he'd joined a real estate firm that had offices in Boulder, Longmont and Erie. He headed off in the morning with a palm pilot and a cell phone and returned each day with stories of prospects and near misses, the crazy personalities at the office and the occasional big sale. Simmons never saw his workplace, but she did field calls for him that she assumed were from co-workers. Around the same time, Lindstedt took charge of the mail and the checkbook, asking Simmons to sign blank checks on her account that he would then fill out to pay household bills.
"He was home every day at three to get the mail," Simmons says. "I know it sounds strange, but he didn't have a college degree and hadn't been that successful in life. I decided the way to be a good wife was to build him up. He loved to be in charge of the bills, and I was glad to let him do it."
Lindstedt was a popular figure in the couple's Broomfield neighborhood, a youth soccer coach and scout leader. He boasted about the sales he had pending, the windfall he was expecting from his mother's estate and the shrewd investments he was making. He showed Simmons computer-generated statements tracking how well her mutual funds were doing.
"I thought it was odd that he was always around the house," says Pamela Simmons, Marcia's sister. "Toward the end, he would follow Marcia around a lot. She'd go to the computer, and he'd go with her. He was always running to the phone and looking at the readout and not answering it. Sometimes people would call for Marcia and he'd tell them she wasn't there. I thought he was just letting her get some rest."