By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Marcia Simmons says she had little inkling that anything was wrong until a trip to Kmart to buy a spatula in August 2001. "I go to the checkout line, open my wallet, and there's no cash," she says. "I write a check and it's rejected. So I decided to put it on a credit card -- and they were all gone. The only thing in my wallet was a Visa with John's name on it from 1991. It was a closed account."
She went home and demanded an explanation from Lindstedt. He told her that he'd ordered new credit cards, that there must be a glitch in their online banking. None of it made much sense. She tried to get her credit report off the Internet, only to have her service abruptly disconnected several times; Lindstedt, she says, kept disappearing from the room during these attempts.
She decided to try again in the middle of the night, while Lindstedt was sleeping. "Everything just started coming together in my head," she says. "I went downstairs, got on the computer and got right into the website. And I pulled up four pages of credit cards I didn't even know I had. It was the most horrific credit report I'd ever seen. I woke him up, and I was screaming, ŒWhat have you done?'
"The next morning he was gone," she says. "I went to his desk and started pulling out these envelopes of bills, all mislabeled. Collection stuff. Foreclosure notices. His briefcase was stuffed with papers, but his computer had been erased, and a lot of my stock files were missing. So I went through the trash. The accounts were all empty. I had 34 cents left in the change drawer."
The house, she discovered, was only days away from foreclosure. (Neighbors told her they'd tried to phone her when they saw the property listed for auction in the paper, but the call-blocking system Lindstedt had put on the phone had thwarted them as well as creditors.) She was facing more than $80,000 in delinquent home-equity loans and credit-card debt, much of it already turned over to collectors. Income taxes she thought had been paid had never been filed. The "paychecks" Lindstedt had deposited in their accounts had really been funds he'd diverted from her IRAs and mutual funds by faking her signature on checks and transfer orders, she says. And the $46,000 in savings bonds she'd purchased for her teenage son's college education was missing.
"He tried to cash out William's bonds, too," she says. "His own biological son. But the bank wouldn't take them."
Lindstedt phoned Simmons shortly after his departure. He told her that he was in the mountains and had taken some pills and was contemplating suicide. "He was well enough to drive home," she says. "But the magic had worked; his dad was out of his mind with worry. He wasn't the least bit concerned about the kids or what John had done. He just wanted to know where John was and how he was doing. It was like he'd been through it before."
In the subsequent divorce, Lindstedt waived any claim to the remaining equity in the house Simmons had purchased and agreed to assume liability for more than half the marital debt. In court filings, he has contended that Simmons was aware of the couple's dire financial straits and that much of the "missing" money went to cover household expenses.
Simmons disputes this. "As far as I knew, we had no credit-card debt, one house payment, no car payments and lived well within our means," she says. "Where did all that money go?"
Lindstedt did not return calls seeking comment. His attorney, Neeti Pawar, also declined to comment on the case. But according to an affidavit filed by a Broomfield detective who interviewed Lindstedt, he "admitted he was never a realtor and had merely created this facade. He said he handled the family finances and Marcia was Œnot totally aware' of their financial woes.... John said he was sick and suffering from depression."
Looking for a more coherent explanation, Simmons dug into his past. She talked to former business associates, who claimed that Lindstedt had mismanaged restaurant accounts and failed to pay taxes and vendors. She tracked down his second wife, who told her that she'd lost her car and house when Lindstedt failed to make the monthly payments.
Simmons didn't go to the police about the alleged fraud until mid-2003, days after the divorce settlement was finalized. She soon found her case divided between two jurisdictions, with the more recent acts falling under the purview of recently formed Broomfield County, while Boulder County had the rest. Simmons has been critical of Broomfield police for failing to open bank accounts and interview potential witnesses. But some observers fault her for not coming forward in a timely fashion and failing to cooperate fully with prosecutors.
"Credibility issues arise for jurors in marital situations that don't necessarily arise in other fraud cases," says Bob Grant, district attorney for Adams and Broomfield counties. "Ms. Simmons would not testify. That's her prerogative in a case like this, but it does complicate matters. She wanted a lot done, but the police don't work for one individual. They can't be a private investigative agency."