Friday, March 28, 2008

Susan Ray Sentenced

SUSAN RAY SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS FOR EMBEZZLEMENT

INVESTIGATORS UNABLE TO FIND $4.8 MILLION STOLEN FROM RESORT

March 22, 2008 – Fort Worth, Texas
Susan Ray, 52, who owned the Dream Cross Ranch in Boonsville, Texas, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday, March 21, and ordered to make $5,784,892 in restitution to the Gasparilla Inn – payable immediately. However, according to a Secret Service agent, they are unable to find over $4.8 million of the money. Prosecutors feel that much of Ray’s assets have been put in other people’s names.

Based on the crime and her lack of criminal history, prosecutors expected a five-year term; however U.S. District Judge John McBryde gave her the stiffest sentence allowed under a plea agreement. She has been in custody since February, when she was originally scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 22.

Ray, who also went by the names of Susan Hunt and Susan Thurow, owned well-bred cutting mares and sold eggs out of them at her Dream Cross Ranch, located on farm road 920, about six miles south of Lake Bridgeport. The mare was then bred to the buyer’s choice of stallion and the embryo (fertilized egg) was put in a carrier mare. She was arrested on Monday, June 18, 2007 for money laundering and embezzlement for stealing nearly $6 million from a Florida resort where she worked as the controller for the upscale resort hotel from Oct. 4, 2002 until Jan. 19, 2007.

The resort is owned by the family of William S. Farish Jr., grandson of Williams Stamps Farish II, former president of Standard Oil. William Stamps was ambassador to the United Kingdom under President George W. Bush from 201-2004. Farish III, a breeder of top Thoroughbred horses, was the Chairman of the Board of Churchill Downs and current serves as Chairman of the Breeders’ Cup and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Political Action Committee. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and Blood Horse Publications. He owns Lane’s End Farm, a 2,000-acre farm in Lexington, Ky., and a 300-acre Texas division near Hempstead.

According to an article by Bryon Okada in the March 22 issue of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, even though a Secret Service was investigating the whereabouts of the money, it had not been found. They feel she spent some of the money building and maintaining the Dream Cross Ranch and purchasing, advertising, maintaining and breeding the mares. It was revealed; however, that an associate of Ray’s had recently traveled to Europe, leading to speculation that the money could be hidden in an offshore account or in Europe. Also, Special Agent, Jason Buchanan, acting on an anonymous tip to the FBI, found a climate-controlled horse trailer on a site where Ray was believed to be hiding assets. The property owner said Ray and Jimmy Fowler, a former employee of hers, had asked him to store the trailer for them. Fowler told investigators that Ray had given him the trailer for work done by him. However, the tags on the trailer showed it being registered to Ray’s Dream Cross Ranch.

He also investigated a 100-acre ranch in Wise County that Ray’s father was negotiating to purchase. The property owner; however, said he had dealt mostly with Ray. Buchanan said there were about 50 horses, which the property owner said were Ray’s; a tractor; two portable trailers, pipe fencing and four portable horse shelters on the property. Fowler identified the shelters as having been at the Dream Cross Ranch, as well as the fencing. Wise County Sheriff David Walker had indicated to Buchanan that the transfers were made just after Ray’s indictment.

According to the Star Telegram article, the U.S. Attorney’s Office also identified numerous other assets and properties titled to Ray, including five houses in Florida valued at almost $800,000. And while testifying in court on Friday, Fowler claimed he now owned all of Ray’s horses, which prosecutors estimate to be “dozens.” Judge McBryde said that the Inn’s owners might have to spend millions to try to recover the money which is more than likely in the names of some of Ray’s friends, relatives and associates.

But most of Ray’s friends and associates knew little about her. In an interview with several of her employees, friends and associates after her arrest, no one interviewed knew what her parents’ names were or what they did. No one knew who she worked for in Florida or that she had gotten fired – and they certainly didn’t know she had gotten fired for embezzlement until an article came out on June 21, 2007 in the Wise County Messenger. A former employee, Jackie Bargstedt, called her a good boss, and even on the naïve side, as she was taken advantage by contractors, electricians and plumbers when she was building her Dream Cross Ranch. Bargstedt said the only reason she left was that she could not get along with Ray’s ranch manager Ed Cridge.

Ray’s first horse trainer was well-known reining trainer Clint Haverty, Krum, Texas, whose wife, Liz, told the Wise County Messenger, that Ray was shy and naïve when it came to horses – sometimes paying three times what the horse was really worth. She said she “threw money around” in the horse industry, attracting a lot of attention. That relationship also ended when she hired Cridge, who had been working for Haverty, as her trainer.

In 2003, Ray decided she wanted to try cutting and hired trainer Terry Hollis, Millsap, Texas, who trained and rode horses for Ray for about four years and taught her how to ride cutting horses. He said she was “great to work with,” but added that their relationship was strictly professional and they never talked about her personal life or money. Hollis said he sold a couple of horses for Ray a couple of days before she was jailed and even though he deposited his commission check in his bank, by the time it got to Ray’s bank, the account had been frozen and he was out the money.
Another friend, Cheryl Wallis, Kaufman, Texas, said in the Messenger article that when Ray would purchase an $80,000 horse, she would tell people she had sold a piece of property she owned in Florida and she just assumed she had inherited the property.

2 comments:

Holly said...

she could not have been TOO naive!

Paige said...

Clearly

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