SNOW HILL – 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 a new identity was back in District Court in Worcester County this week to face a violation of probation hearing after 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 to the tune of over $100,000 before starting life anew out west including a rapid ascent to a lofty position in the Arizona school system. Nearly a decade later, 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 after detectives were able to track his whereabouts across the country.
Last December, Brueckner-Thelander reached an agreement with prosecutors in Worcester which included a guilty plea to one count of forgery and an arrangement to begin paying back his ex-wife $75,000 in restitution. However, just a few months into the new arrangement, it was discovered Brueckner-Thelander was not complying with the terms of the plea bargain and he was taken into custody again last May for violating the conditions of his parole and probation. While he was making sporadic payments as part of the restitution plan, 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 again in June and brought back across the country to Worcester County for a violation of probation hearing during which his attorney was successful in getting the amount of his monthly restitution payment reduced by about half from $2,000 to $1,000. However, new information was brought to light about his financial situation and his personal holdings that could have forced him to expedite his restitution payments to his ex-wife, a long-time Ocean City Elementary School teacher.
During the violation of probation hearing in June, 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. In June, District Court Judge Gerald Purnell agreed 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 of probation hearing, which was held on Monday.
During the violation of probation hearing on Monday, it was determined Brueckner-Thelander is in compliance with the terms of his probation and has been making the $1,000 per month payments ordered by the judge in June. However, the judge also ordered Brueckner-Thelander to return again in March 2009 for a further review of his finances to determine whether or not he should be paying back his ex-wife sooner rather than later.
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.