Jan 112012
Authors: Allison Sylte and Erin Udell

Disbelief. Sadness. Anger. Revenge.

This is what Bas Bleu Theatre Co. Board President Tom Campbell said was going through his mind when he first discovered that then-general manager and CSU senior Matt Strauch had allegedly stolen upwards of $25,000 from the theatre’s mailboxes.

“He was a hustler. He worked hard. I considered him a friend,” Campbell said of Strauch, who, after Bas Bleu notified Fort Collins Police Services regarding their suspicions, was arrested on Dec. 22 for two counts of theft and three counts of identity theft ­­­­­­­­–– charges that stemmed from two separate investigations in mid-December.

Prior to his abrupt resignation, Strauch, a 24-year-old pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in social work, was the director of Finance for the Associated Students of ASCSU.

Strauch, who worked for four ASCSU administrations, resigned shortly after his arrest, citing his busy schedule.

“It’s a little bit of a void in my life, but it’s a good change,” Strauch said in a Dec. 28 interview with the Collegian. “I really need to focus on my academics.”

While ASCSU President Eric Berlinberg can’t comment specifically about the resignation, he did say that his legal matters were not included in Strauch’s resignation letter.

“We’re all in shock,” Berlinberg said. “Matt was the one who first got me involved in ASCSU.”

ASCSU is currently undergoing a university audit, and Berlinberg said there is currently no reason to suspect Strauch misused any student government funds.

“CSU immediately launched a review of ASCSU funds before the holidays,” CSU Spokeswoman Dell Rae Moellenberg said in an email to the Collegian. “This review did not show any evidence of misuse of ASCSU funds. ASCSU financial systems do include strict internal controls.”

Campbell said Bas Bleu first began to suspect foul play in December, when a donor alerted them about a $2,600 check that had been deposited into a false bank account Strauch had created. Fort Collins Police Services began an investigation, concluding that Strauch had created a false account under Bas Bleu’s name with $25,910.90 of stolen funds.

Another investigation later ensued, concluding that Strauch had also stolen funds from T.R. Paul Academy of Arts and Knowledge, where he served as the board treasurer.
According to a police report, Strauch made five unauthorized counter withdrawals on accounts owned by the charter school and wrote four unauthorized checks to Bas Bleu from T.R. Paul, ultimately leading to $41,881,93 in losses.

Both Bas Bleu and T.R. Paul say Strauch’s alleged theft won’t be significant, adding that they expect restitution and insurance to take care of the damages.

But for employees at Bas Bleu, where Strauch has worked since he was 15, the emotional damages far outweigh the monetary ones.

“It’s sad to see that much talent wasted,” Campbell said of Strauch. “The big thing that we’ve dealt with, as we’ve tried to process of all of this, is that it’s hard to un-love someone. You can’t turn that off.”

In 2008, Bas Bleu officials say Strauch was caught stealing the identity of an employee, charges that were later dropped when a civil restitution was reached.

Berlinberg said while ASCSU has never conducted background checks on employees in the past, the organization plans to revisit that policy in light of the current situation.

Strauch could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted and restitution of up to $750,000.

“For someone to be that young have that much of their future ahead of them, to piss that away for petty, selfish, criminal reasons, it’s saddening, honestly,” Campbell added.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte and News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 8:25 am

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