Payback, no prison, for Kia embezzler
The former general manager of Grand Junction’s Grand West Kia car dealership will have 20 years to pay back $172,000 he stole from the business, a Mesa County judge said Wednesday.
District Judge Valerie Robison said during a sentencing hearing that James Gattis, 46, now a resident of Los Angeles, may petition to suspend a 20-year probation term if he can pay full restitution to the dealership earlier than 2032.
Gattis pleaded guilty to felony theft of more than $20,000 in a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.
Gattis, who appeared free on bond Wednesday, was also ordered by Robison to write an apology letter to his former partners at Grand West Kia, 2980 U.S. Highway 50.
“I pretty much had given up on myself for a long time,” he told the judge, largely blaming alcohol and drug abuse for the embezzlement.
Gattis, a military veteran, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after an employee at the dealership shot and killed himself in a suicide, which happened inside Gattis’ office, attorney Andrew Peters told the judge.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department in 2010 opened an investigation after the dealership reported Gattis had purchased dozens of vehicles from another dealership, J&M Auto Sales, 2657 U.S. Highway 50, at prices well above blue-book value, according to an arrest affidavit. J&M Auto Sales, in turn, cut checks payable to Gattis and not Grand West Kia, the affidavit said. Gattis pocketed the extra cash.
Investigators learned 109 vehicles were purchased by Gattis from J&M in 2009, while Grand West was paying anywhere from $840 to $18,366 above the listed value for the vehicles, the affidavit said.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Gattis agreed to give a full statement to investigators and he implicated others in the crime, according to Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Savage.
Savage said it’s undetermined if anyone else will face charges in the case. Savage told the judge he was surprised by the fact no representatives of Grand West Kia were in attendance for the sentencing hearing.