$1.5 million stolen from children’s hospital window for 16 years of Castle Rock man
A man who stole $1.5 million from the two Shriners, including money intended to cover life-saving medical flights for children, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The sentence, unusually harsh for a white-collar crime here, came after a three-hour hearing on Friday during which Judge Adam Espinosa heard about the life and crimes of William Schwartz.
“The money you took — the median income in our community is $78,000,” Espinosa told the 44-year-old. “$1.5 million – not many in our community will earn that in their lifetime.”
While he was treasurer of the Mountain Shrine Association in Denver from 2014 to 2019, the Castle Rock man transferred more than $1.2 million that was intended for sister organization and Shriners Hospitals for Children into his corporate bank accounts.
Then, in 2019, Schwartz became treasurer of the Order of Quetzalcoatl, a Masonic group that also sends money to Shriners Hospitals. Schwartz stole more than $250,000 from him.
Schwartz was charged in April 2022 and convicted by a jury in May of this year. The jury found that he had committed two counts of theft. At trial, Schwartz did not dispute the allegations of theft, but said the charges were brought too late, outside the statute of limitations.
“I don’t think ‘I’m sorry’ would ever be enough for any of the people I hurt,” Schwartz told Espinosa through tears and tears before he was sentenced on Friday.
He said, “I deceived them.” “I deceived people that the money was meant to help them.”
Schwartz’s wife and 14-year-old daughter did not attend the sentencing and only his psychiatrist testified on his behalf. As a result, both sides of the courtroom were filled with dozens of protesters and their supporters, many of them wearing their maroon fez.
Many Shriners have testified passionately about their groups’ philanthropy, which includes paying airlifts for badly burned children in Central America to Shriners’ hospitals. They transport 200 patients annually at an average cost of $23,000 each, according to the certification.
This is not a destitute man who was trying to feed his family. Rick Corbin, CEO of the Order of Quetzalcoatl, said of Schwartz that he is a sociopath who believes he can profit from anything he wants. “…He should be locked up with the other wolves, to protect the innocent.”
Joe Kent, a leader at the local mountain shrine, said Schwartz never apologized.
Kent testified: “His actions were well thought out and planned.” He knew who was stealing and it didn’t bother him. It didn’t bother him at all, not a single thing.”
Schwartz’s attorney, Richard Tegetmeyer, maintained that both groups that Schwartz had stolen were able to continue paying for air transportation by drawing on their savings.
The defense lawyer said: “Every child that the mountain was asked to help take to the hospital was taken to the hospital.” “…no child here was harmed.”
Schwartz, dressed in a casual khaki uniform and blue shirt unbuttoned at the collar, sat with his hands folded at his mouth and eyes straight ahead. His flushed face would be amazed when witnesses called him names or sullied his character.
Gary Guterman, a Denver psychiatrist who began seeing Schwartz after his conviction, testified that his patient had a “difficult and traumatic” childhood, followed by a neurological disorder as a young man and a bout with cancer in 2012. Guterman repeatedly referred to Schwartz’s greed as “sugar.” And an “addiction” he can’t control.
He told me: I fell into greed. I couldn’t put an end to it. Guterman testified, referring to his therapy sessions with Schwartz.
The psychiatrist added, “He said, ‘I said to myself over and over again, ‘I’m going to stop this,’ but like any addiction, I couldn’t stop.”When Espinosa asked him if he was saying greed was an addiction, Guterman explained that he meant Schwartz could continue to benefit from treatment.
Guterman and Tegetmeyer framed Schwartz’s crimes as an attempt to keep up with the “high lifestyles” of his Shriner friends, observations that sparked interest in the courtroom.
“The guys who are Shriners—almost all of them have been successful in business. They’re people that Bill looked up to, people who you could say had a high degree of success in life, and Bill wanted to have that,” Tigtmeier said. “He didn’t have that in his youth.”
Deputy District Attorney Katie Kirk said that at the time of his arrest, “Mr. Schwartz was leading a very privileged life” with the money he had stolen. She listed an almost $1 million home, a vacation home in southern Colorado and a timeshare in Hawaii, $100,000 Lincolns, $30,000 in plastic Legos bought as a business, and $12,000 in custom suits.
“This case is kind of an aberration because we haven’t seen a charitable organization of this magnitude fall victim since I’ve been in the DA’s office,” said Kirk, who joined the office nine years ago.
Some Shriners asked Espinosa to sentence Schwartz to 24 years in prison, the maximum allowed by law. Kirk requested prison time but did not specify how long she thought appropriate. Tegtmeier requested that his client be sentenced to probation, not imprisonment.
“I know we’re all more than the worst thing we’ve done but what you’ve done here matters. These are some of the most serious crimes in our system,” Espinosa told Schwartz, noting that one of the counts was a second-degree felony, on par with some murders.
“Your motive seemed really focused on promoting your lifestyle. It really struck me as someone who wanted to get ahead but might have decided that instead of putting in the hard work, you were going to cheat others,” the judge said. “This wasn’t a real estate scam or a pyramid scheme, it was many years of taking money from a group of people who were your friends.”
In doing so, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for stealing from the mountain and six years for stealing from the Order of Quetzalcoatl, to be run concurrently. Schwartz must also serve three years of probation and pay back. The refund amount will be determined at a later time.
“You’ll get out of jail a lot sooner than you think,” said Espinosa, noting that defendants rarely serve a full sentence, “and I hope you can keep your promise of restitution.”
While the judge was making his remarks, three Denver sheriff’s deputies walked up behind Schwartz and removed their handcuffs. He was arrested when the judge finished speaking.
Schwartz’s legal action is far from over. In February, he was charged with tax evasion and four felony counts of filing a false tax return between 2017 and 2020. A trial in that case was scheduled for Friday but has been postponed.
Meanwhile, there was a lot of emotion for the fez-clad Iraqis who filled the courtroom on Friday.
“I’m happy,” said Bobby Marner, a resident of the area, after the hearing, while dipping his red, wet eyes outside the courtroom. Then he paused, sniffed, and added, “But I’m sad, too.”