Almost three months after being arrested for stealing more than $40,000 from a local charter school and nonprofit theater company, Matt Strauch, a former CSU student and director of finance for the Associated Students of CSU, pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of felony theft.
Though Strauch was originally arrested on Dec. 22 for two counts of theft and three counts of identity theft, some charges were combined while others were dropped in light of his guilty plea. Prior to the plea, Strauch could have faced up to 12 years in prison and restitution of up to $750,000 if convicted.
While he will remain free on bond until his May 22 sentencing, Strauch was ordered to surrender his passport because his partner currently lives in Europe, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
Strauch declined to comment before his sentence hearing.
Strauch, who had been working toward his second bachelorâ€™s degree at CSU, was serving as a general manager at Bas Bleu Theatre Co. and a board treasurer at T.R. Paul Academy of Arts and Knowledge when foul play was first suspected back in December.
â€œI think at this point, at least for me, the seriousness of the whole ordeal has set in,â€ said ASCSU Director of Governmental Affairs Chase Eckerdt in an email to the Collegian. â€œI still think the whole situation is unfortunate given the magnitude of the situation. I hope everyone who was affected by Mattâ€™s actions can be repaid and the losses can be recovered.â€
According to Bas Bleu Theatre Co. Board President Tom Campbell, in a Jan. 17 Collegian article, a donor had alerted the company about a $2,600 check that had been deposited into a bank account created by Strauch.
After an initial investigation, Fort Collins police concluded that Strauch had created a false bank account under Bas Bleuâ€™s name, ultimately stealing $25,910.90. Through another investigation, police also found that he had done a similar thing to the charter school, making five unauthorized counter withdrawals on its accounts and writing four unauthorized checks to Bas Bleu from the school.
The total losses for both organizations equal $41,881.93.
â€œItâ€™s sad to see that much talent wasted,â€ Campbell said of Strauch â€“ who had worked at the company since he was 15 â€“ in the Jan. 17 article. â€œThe big thing that weâ€™ve dealt with, as weâ€™ve tried to process of all of this, is that itâ€™s hard to un-love someone. You canâ€™t turn that off.â€
â€œFor someone to be that young have that much of their future ahead of them, to piss that away for petty, selfish, criminal reasons, itâ€™s saddening, honestly,â€ Campbell added.
In a separate 2008 incident, Strauch was caught stealing the identity of another Bas Bleu employee. While he faced charges, they were later dropped after a civil restitution was reached.
Due to Strauchâ€™s position in student government, the university launched a review of ASCSU funds late last year. According to CSU Spokesperson Dell Rae Moellenberg, there was no evidence to suggest any misuse of funds.
And according to ASCSU President Eric Berlinberg, while Strauch did not compromise any university funds, his case has led to a change in student government policy â€“ one that never previously included background checks of employees.
â€œEffective Jan.15, all individuals whose positions have control over a budget are hired pending the results of a background check â€¦â€ Berlinberg said in an email to the Collegian for a Feb. 23 follow-up article. â€œThis has been implemented as an internal policy for our administration, and to ensure this is binding for future student leadership, I have drafted legislation that would constitutionally require background checks moving forward.â€
News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.