Former mall managers sentenced for losing rent deposits

Grace Lee, Paul and Cheryl Hansen

Public Defender Grace Lee (top) assists with the fingerprinting of Paul and Cheryl Hansen. Photo by KTOO News.

A Juneau couple charged with theft after leaving their jobs as managers of the Airport Mini-Mall and Apartments was sentenced in Juneau Superior Court on Thursday.

Two-years in prison with two-years suspended (or no time to serve) was handed down to Cheryl Hansen, 67, and Paul Hansen, 63. The sentence was part of an earlier plea agreement with prosecutors. The Hansens changed their pleas to guilty to reduced charges of second degree felony theft in February.

The couple started work as managers of the Airport Mini-Mall and Apartments in 2001. Cheryl did the bookkeeping and Paul did the maintenance in exchange for a $1000 monthly stipend and use of a two bedroom house with paid utilities. Prosecutors have said that owners of the Mall discovered at least $68,870 in rent deposits were missing after the Hansens left their employment in June 2010.

Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp says it was a serious offense, but the plea and sentence agreement was specifically crafted so that the Hansens would not be incarcerated.

“It was an elaborate scheme as far as the state can tell,” said Kemp.

That’s not true, according to Public Defender Grace Lee. She said Paul Hansen’s poor health led to deterioriating work product.

“I don’t think that they are mastermind thieves who sat there and planned out a way to take money from AMMA for nine-plus years,” said Lee.

Lee said approximately $13,000 in rent checks has already been found stashed in a box of Christmas decorations placed in storage. It’s unclear if any of those checks are “viable” or can be deposited.

Phil Isaak, son of mall co-owner Richard Isaak, read a letter on behalf of the other co-owner Dick Winchell which outlined years of delays for deposits and excuses.

“The approximate amount of $70,000 for the months of May and June (2010) probably represent only the tip of the iceberg,” said Isaak.

The Hansens reportedly acknowledged to police officers that the deposits had not been made. They claimed they had the funds, but a search by officers of the Hansen’s belongings could not locate the money.

Both Cheryl and Paul Hansen read in court separate letters of apology intended for owners of the mall. They both suggested that deterioriating mental and physical health issues led to the misplacement of all those deposits.

“Sometimes I didn’t remember taking the rent or to do the paperwork to show that had taken it,” said Paul Hansen. “But I am sure that we did not take whatever money is missing.”

Cheryl Hansen acknowledged misplaced checks or bankbags containing thousands dollars of cash left elsewhere in the house or mixed in with personal belongings. She also said she was lenient with largely low-income tenants who could not pay rent on-time because of a hardship.

Cheryl Hansen

Cheryl Hansen listens to ADA Angie Kemp. Photo by KTOO News.

“There were times that rents were held before depositing,” said Cheryl Hansen.

Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez saw it as predicament that snowballed out of control over a long period of time.

A restitution hearing is planned for July. The Hansens may be required to pay back some of the money as part of their three-year probation. But they’re currently on a fixed income.

When Phil and Richard Isaak left the courthouse Thursday, they stopped to tell each of the Hansens that they accepted their apology and forgave them.

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