Aspen Skiing executive sentenced to 6 years in prison for stealing, selling equipment
ASPEN — Former Aspen Skiing Co. executive Derek Johnson was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for stealing skis and merchandise from the company and reselling the gear online for more than a decade.
In letters to District Judge Chris Seldin, Skio executives said Johnson stole more than $6 million worth of equipment during his scheme. They say he also was a bully who emotionally abused employees, reduced their wages and stunted their careers.
At Tuesday’s sentencing at the Pitkin County Courthouse, Johnson sat in the courtroom wearing a sport coat and dress shirt. He was credited with one day of time served.
Johnson, 52, pleaded guilty in November to one count of felony theft between $100,000 and $1 million. Johnson — who also served one term on Aspen City Council (2009 to ’13) and ran for mayor in 2013 — was facing between four and 12 years in prison.
His wife, Kerri Johnson, 48, pleaded guilty to felony theft in December as part of the scheme, and while prosecutors agreed not to ask for a prison sentence in her case, she will serve an unspecified probation sentence and possibly some time in the Pitkin County Jail. She is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
“This was no instance of isolated theft that might be explained away as a brief lapse in judgment,” Skico CEO Mike Kaplan wrote on behalf of Skico and its employees in a two-page letter to the judge. “On the contrary, Derek engaged in an ongoing, intentional, coordinated effort to steal from Aspen Skiing Company. This deception was methodical, intentional and remains unfathomable to me.”
On Tuesday, Seldin sealed the letters written to the judge. The Aspen Times obtained the letters last week in a request to the Court Clerk’s office.
The couple, who have three children, also will have to pay back Skico $250,000 as part of the plea deal.
After the sentencing, Johnson mouthed “I love you” to his family members, who were seated in the court room gallery.
Police and prosecutors alleged that Johnson and his wife stole more than $2.4 million in skis, snowboards and other goods during his 17-year tenure as managing director of Skico’s rental/retail department. The sales were conducted through eBay, and included billing Skico for the boxes they used to send their customers the stolen skis.
However, according to the letters from Kaplan and other executives, that turns out to be the amount the couple made selling Skico property at cut-rate prices, not the value of the products or what Skico paid for them.
There were nearly 30 letters sent to Seldin in support of Johnson and asking for a light sentence. They came from family members, neighbors, parents of kids he coached in football, current and former area elected officials and former business associates.
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