A judge had warned Greg Jarrard against scamming people again.
Back in 2006, the builder got arrested for writing back checks. He pleaded guilty to check fraud and received probation. But the light sentence came with an admonition.
“I hope this was an anomaly and an event that was a hiccup, and that you and I will never meet in this setting again,” the judge said. “Because if we do, the outcome won’t be the same.”
A different judge reminded Jarrard of that warning Tuesday, just before sentencing him to seven to 10 years in prison for stealing $165,000 from his clients. Prosecutors say Jarrard promised barns, fences and other buildings to more than 20 customers, and then pocketed their deposit without completing the work.
Defense attorneys insisted their client didn’t set out to defraud his clients, but rather got in over his head while struggling with undiagnosed depression. However, Natrona County District Judge Thomas Sullins said Jarrard must have realized he was breaking the law.
“At some point in time, there is no question in my mind that the misrepresentation continued, that the thefts continued,” Sullins said. “Anyone would have a question in their mind about whether this was right or wrong.”
Jarrard showed little emotion for most of the two-hour hearing, held in a Casper courtroom full of his victims and his supporters. He sat flanked by his attorneys, a somber look on his face, as seven former clients recalled paying him thousands of dollars in deposits, only to receive excuses and little else.
But when given an opportunity to speak before sentencing, the 37-year-old broke down. His voice wavered as he turned toward his victims and addressed them directly.
“I am ashamed for what I’ve done and I apologize for the pain and hardship I put anyone through,” he said.
Prosecutors described a pattern of fraud that dated back to at least 2009. Operating under a number of business names, he accepted deposits that ranged as high as $21,600. In some instances, he began the projects. But in the majority of the cases, he performed no work at all.
He ignored phone calls from concerned clients. Those who did reach him heard excuses.
Mike Brierley lost $6,500 after Jarrard failed to build his pole barn. The experience was pure hell, Brierly said.
“This was no accident,” he said. “This was not a bad decision. This was pure intent to rip people off.”
Amy Heald and her husband paid $7,500 for a garage near their home in Rozet. Jarrad never performed the work. The sentencing hearing was the first time they’d seen him since he took their money, she said.
The ordeal happened about the same time the Healds got married. It was overwhelming to deal with both at the same time, Amy Heald told the court.
“Greg took more than money,” she said. “He took our trust.”
Defense attorney Tom Smith said his client accepted responsibility for what happened. During his first interview with authorities, he admitted 21 times to accepting money from people without completing their projects.
Jarrard’s attorneys indicated they sent him for mental evaluations with two doctors. They submitted documents to the court related to the evaluations, although the reports were filed under seal.
The doctors indicated Jarrard suffered from depression and tended to avoid conflict. The findings suggest he didn’t set out to cheat people, Smith told the court.
“This was not fraud from the outset,” he said.
In response, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Stensaas noted that surely some of Jarrad’s victims dealt with the same types of problems.
“But those folks didn’t steal from anybody,” Stensaas said.
Prosecutors filed charged against Jarrard in March. He pleaded guilty in September to five counts of larceny as part of a deal with prosecutors that capped his maximum sentence at 10 years.
The agreement also requires him to pay restitution to all of his victims. His family has been repaying his former clients, but he still owes more than $50,000 in restitution.