Embezzler Taken Back into Custody

BERLIN- A former local resident forced by the court last December to pay $75,000 in restitution to his now ex-wife after absconding with over a hundred thousands of dollars from her before heading out west and assuming a new name and new life nearly a decade ago was arrested again last week in Arizona and held for several days for allegedly failing to hold up his end of the plea bargain.

Former Ocean Pines resident Richard Brueckner, now Richard Thelander, in the late 1990s forged his estranged wife’s signature several times to clear out personal accounts and illegally obtain credit cards in her name, which he soon maxed out. Brueckner-Thelander carried out his extensive theft scheme against his wife and various financial entities over a two-year period from 1996 to 1998. He then left the area and made his way out west where he assumed a new name as Richard Thelander and started a new life, which included a rapid ascent to a lofty position in the Arizona school system.

After searching for Brueckner-Thelander for nearly a decade, investigators tracked him to Arizona last August and he was taken into custody on an arrest warrant dating back to 2001. Brueckner-Thelander was extradited to Worcester County to face the 24-count warrant on charges ranging from theft and forgery to credit card theft and theft scheme. In December, Brueckner-Thelander entered a plea agreement in which he agreed to pay $75,000 in restitution to his ex-wife, a long-time Ocean City Elementary School teacher. He was also placed on three years supervised probation, which would have ended if and when he made good on the restitution.

However, Brueckner-Thelander has not complied with the terms of the plea agreement, failing to stay current on the restitution payments to his ex-wife. As a result, a warrant was re-issued for his arrest in April and he was taken into custody on May 14 in Arizona. He remained in jail until Tuesday of this week when he was released on a $3,800 cash bond.

Upon his release, Brueckner-Thelander was required to surrender his passport to Arizona authorities in an effort to ensure he does not flee the country before returning to Worcester County to face the renewed charges against him. Sometime last year, Brueckner-Thelander obtained Panamanian citizenship and is considered a flight risk.

With his failure to follow the terms of the plea agreement reached in December in Worcester County District Court, Brueckner-Thelander has violated his probation and will be forced to return to Maryland to face renewed charges against him. A violation of probation hearing has been set for July 10.