Embezzler Returned To County After Violating Deal

BERLIN – A former local resident forced by the court last December to pay $75,000 in restitution to his ex-wife after absconding with over $100,000 of her money before heading out west and assuming a new name and new identity nearly a decade ago was back in District Court in Snow Hill on Tuesday for 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 obtained credit cards in her name to the tune of over $100,000 before starting a new life including a rapid ascent to a lofty position in the Arizona school system. Brueckner-Thelander was brought back to Worcester County last year to face a 24-count warrant on charges ranging from theft and forgery to credit card fraud and theft scheme and reached an agreement with prosecutors which included a guilty plea to one count of forgery and an arrangement to begin paying back his ex-wife $75,000 in restitution.

Just a few months into the arrangement, however, Brueckner-Thelander was not complying with the terms of the plea bargain and was taken into custody again in May for violating the conditions of his parole and probation. While he was making sporadic payments, according to those close to the case, he was not in compliance with the terms of his probation and a new warrant was sworn out on him.

He was taken into custody and held in Arizona for a few days in May before being released and was back in District Court in Snow Hill on Tuesday for a violation of probation hearing. While his attorney was successful in getting the amount of his monthly payment reduced by about half, from $2,000 to $1,000, new information was brought to light about his financial situation and his personal holdings that could force him to expedite his restitution payments to his ex-wife, a long-time Ocean City Elementary School teacher.

During the proceedings on Tuesday, parole and probation officials revealed Brueckner-Thelander’s financial situation was much rosier than originally believed including vast property holdings in several states including time-shares in Arizona and Hawaii and a revenue-producing ranch in Wyoming.

As a result, District Court Judge Gerald Purnell did agree to temporarily lower Brueckner-Thelander’s monthly restitution payments, but ordered the defendant to present a comprehensive and accurate account of his financial situation and return for another violation probation hearing scheduled for November, during which it will be determined if the defendant has the means to pay back his ex-wife sooner than anticipated. His return date is scheduled for Nov. 10.

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 a new identity. At different times over the 10-year period, Thelander was found to have been living in various locations out west before settling in Arizona where he ultimately became the president and CEO of a private school.

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. He was eventually extradited to Worcester to face the 24-count warrant and reached a plea bargain in December in which he was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution to his ex-wife.