SNOW HILL – In a bit of a surprise move, the attorney for the former Worcester County man accused of embezzling over $100,000 from his now ex-wife before assuming a new name and a new life out west in Arizona, will try his case in District Court.
Attorney J. Harrison Phillips, who represents former Ocean Pines resident Richard Brueckner, also known as Richard Thelander, last Friday appeared in District Court on behalf of his client for a preliminary inquiry for the nearly 10-year old case. Ordinarily, because of the number and severity of the charges against Brueckner-Thelander, it would be mere formality for the defense to seek to try the case in Circuit Court, possibly in front of a jury, but Harrison last week told District Court Judge Gerald Purnell he would like to try the case at the District Court level.
“I’m not seeking a jury trial in this case,” said Phillips, who is known for preferring to try cases before judges than juries. “I want to try it right here.”
With that said, Purnell and Harrison looked at the upcoming District Court docket for an appropriate date or dates for the case. After some discussion, the case against Brueckner-Thelander was laid in for Dec. 14.
Brueckner-Thelander in the late 1990s allegedly forged his now ex-wife’s signature several times to illegally obtain credit cards and clear out the couple’s personal accounts in a theft scheme totaling nearly $120,000, which does not include another $92,000 Brueckner-Thelander owes his ex-wife, a long-time Ocean City Elementary School teacher, in back alimony for seven years.
Brueckner-Thelander, as he prefers to be called now, was arrested in early August at his new home in Cornville, Arizona and served with a 24-count warrant sworn out on him six years ago for theft, forgery, credit card fraud and theft scheme. He was extradited to Worcester County in September and made his first appearance in a courtroom here on September 11 when he was brought in for a bond review.
Brueckner-Thelander’s initial bond upon arrival in Worcester County was set at $500,000, but Phillips was able to convince Purnell to reduce bail to $100,000, ten percent of which, or $10,000, was enough to secure his release from jail. Brueckner-Thelander presumably went back to Arizona, where he has assumed a new life, while awaiting a mandatory court appearance. He was not in court last Friday for the preliminary inquiry.
Brueckner-Thelander allegedly carried out his extensive theft scheme against his wife, as well as other financial institutions, over a two-year period between 1996 and 1998. He then left the area and made his way out west, where he assumed a new name, Richard Thelander, and started a new life, which included a rapid ascent to a lofty position in the Arizona school system.
Brueckner-Thelander, moved quickly up the ranks in the state school system in Arizona to reach the position of administrator and chief executive officer of a three-campus charter school called the PACE Preparatory Academy. In between, he apparently taught at several different schools and held positions on various Boards of Directors in Arizona.