Business Monday: Embezzlement subpoenas shorten Aspen Highlands vacation

A Brazil-based foundation’s efforts to track down its former president who is suspected of embezzlement led it to a luxury townhome at the base of Aspen Highlands last week. But before the main suspect and his relatives could be served with subpoenas related to foreign legal proceedings, Americo Fialdini Jr. and his family cut their Aspen trip short by a month and left town Feb 1.

Those are the claims made by Conrado Wessel Foundation in documents filed last week in Denver federal court. Fialdini Jr., who is the organization’s former president, and his relatives are being sought by the foundation. Foundation court filings allege he embezzled money from the nonprofit to support a lavish lifestyle, which has included annual stays at a townhome located next to the The Ritz-Carlton Club. A criminal investigation into Fialdini Jr. and others also is being conducted by Sao Paolo police.

In a court filing Feb. 3, the foundation said its attempt to serve Fialdini and others with subpoenas was “to discover information about an embezzlement scheme that caused it to lose tens of millions of dollars.” The foundation, believing the Fialdini family would be staying at Aspen Highlands in February, received a magistrate judge’s approval Jan. 25 to subpoena them when they were staying at 64 Prospector.

The family, however, learned they were being pursued after a subpoena was served on the LLC that owns the property, court documents said. They left the property “in the early morning hours of Monday, February 1, 2021,” telling their rental agent they were returning to Brazil because of an ill relative, the foundation’s attorneys argued in court papers.

“Now, apparently having learned about this Court’s order and the subpoenas, those six individuals abruptly fled the house they had rented in Aspen through March 2021,” said court pleadings from the foundation.

Considering the matter urgent to find family’s whereabouts so they can be served, the foundation moved the court to allow it to subpoena the Aspen rental agent for any records she might have related to their visit.

On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nina Wang ruled the foundation could subpoena broker Theresa O’Keefe-Klein for documents and communications related to the lease that would help them narrow the whereabouts of Fialdini Jr. and his family.

O’Keefe-Klein said she was not aware of the subpoena but as far as she was concerned, any information related to guests of the property were private.

“I represent the owner of 64 Prospector and everything about their tenants is confidential,” she said. “I represent the property owners only.”

The four-bedroom, seven-bath unit, which is part of the Ritz-Carlton at Aspen Highlands, is owned by Miami-based Aspen 2306 LLC and advertised for $45,000 a month.

In court papers, foundation attorneys said the nonprofit has been unable to freeze the Fialdini family’s assets, and it believes financial records associated with the Aspen stay will show he used embezzled money from the foundation to pay for the trip.

“The Foundation represented that there was an ongoing civil case and criminal investigation in Brazil into potential embezzlement of Foundation funds by Mr. Fialdini, which were then converted by Mr. Fialdini into funds for his and his family’s personal gains, including the rental of a property in Aspen, Colorado,” Wang wrote in the ruling that said the foundation could subpoena O’Keefe-Klein.

Wang denied the foundation’s request to subpoena the three airlines that serve Aspen-Pitkin County Airport for any travel information related to the Fialdini family.

The foundation said in a January filing related to the case that Fialdini, who left the organization in 2017, operated a scheme spanning “at least three years and involved misappropriation of Foundation funds, accounting fraud, breaches of fiduciary duties that Américo owed to the Foundation, self-dealing, conflicts of interest and the use of the international and U.S. financial systems to move and conceal stolen funds. More fundamentally, Américo deprived the Foundation of money that otherwise would have been used for the Foundation’s significant contributions to charitable causes in Brazil.”