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Kmart thief lands 21/2 years

Judge orders Rowcroft to pay back rest of $100,000 stolen from the store

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Frank Brian Rowcroft was ordered Tuesday to serve 212 years in jail and complete 500 hours of community service for the theft of nearly $100,000 from Juneau's Kmart store almost two years ago.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins also ordered Rowcroft, the store's loss prevention officer, to pay back the money the store's manager testified was lost in the theft - $99,980,39.

"The evidence was certainly overwhelming, you were a key player in the theft of the money from Kmart," Collins told the defendant.

Collins said that while she believes it was possible more people were involved in the theft, that would not reduce the seriousness of Rowcroft's involvement in the crime

"You abused a position of trust," she said.

About $68,000 of the loss was reportedly in cash. Credit card receipts and checks - none of which were ever cashed - made up the rest, according to testimony at Rowcroft's two-week trial in November. The trial ended with a jury finding Rowcroft guilty of first-degree theft.

Rowcroft's attorney, Louis Menendez, argued to request a hearing on the restitution and questioned corporate accounting practices. He said his client could be found responsible for the theft of $25,000, the minimum amount that would define a first-degree theft.

Collins said the defense has the burden of proof to show the total was lower. She added that she believed money seized from Rowcroft at the international border near Skagway - about $30,000 - would be returned to Kmart to lower the restitution.

In addition to imposing five years in prison with 212 years suspended, Collins placed Rowcroft on probation for 10 years, the maximum allowed by Alaska law.

She said she suspended all of the $25,000 fine, in large part because of the restitution he faces.

Menendez said he could find no fault for finding his client guilty, but up to three or four other people had to be involved in the theft. The robbery of the store's cash cage was noticed after the lights went on following a staged power outage on Easter morning.

Menendez alleged that some of the people involved in the crime committed perjury at the trial.

Rowcroft told the judge that he was "sorry for everyone impacted by the crime."

Before Collins imposed the sentence, he said he understood he would face jail and wanted to get on with his life.

"I stand before you a 29-year-old man convicted of theft by receiving ... theft nonetheless," he said.

He also said he wanted to make things right.

Collins later said she didn't understand what he meant.

In explaining her sentence, she pointed out, "you cannot put Kmart back in business."

Kmart, which had sought debt reorganization under federal bankruptcy laws, closed its five Alaska stores in April 2003.

Noting that stores in Fairbanks and Anchorage closed on the same day as the Juneau store, Menendez questioned an assertion in the probation office's pre-sentence report. A Kmart official said the Easter 2002 theft was a reason for the Juneau store's closing.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner recommended a sentence of six years in jail with three years suspended. He argued the seriousness of the crime was at the high end of first-degree thefts and that Rowcroft committed the crime for substantial financial gain with little risk of punishment.

Collins accepted that Rowcroft committed the crime for substantial financial gain, but rejected the notion that it was a "high-end" first degree theft.

Menendez asked the judge to consider the crime as among the least serious class of first-degree thefts.

Collins rejected that argument as well. She also rejected other factors Menendez posed as grounds for leniency, including that the crime did little harm to the community and that his client was coerced to do the crime to seek the affection of a woman.

Menendez said Rowcroft was not a leader, but a follower.

"There is nothing in his background to show that he is evil or a bad man," he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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