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Man caught, accused of embezzlement: 'I never looked back'

9:52 PM, Dec 8, 2011   |    comments
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He was taken into custody on Wednesday and is currently being held in the San Diego County Jail. Daniel is awaiting an extradition hearing, which is expected to occur Thursday, according to the Breckenridge Police Department.

The missing Breckenridge attorney is accused of stealing up to $1 million from clients. He could face additional charges. Daniel was last seen on April 27, 2007.

After an initial search by friends and police, authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on two counts of theft - alleging he never returned clients' money from real-estate transactions.

The Colorado Supreme Court suspended Daniel's law license in May 2007.

Daniel talked to 9NEWS' sister station in San Diego from inside the jail on Thursday.

"It was a pretty pleasant life, not glamorous, but pleasant. I never looked back after leaving Breckenridge. It was very painful to even think of looking back," Daniel said.

Daniel says before he left Breckenridge, he had a job where he was helping to immigrants get legal status. He says it was a job that didn't pay very well, but no one else would do.

"I was just overwhelmed by all of the responsibilities, tasks and many jobs," Daniel said.

When he started to go into debt, Daniel says he pondered drastic actions.

"I kind of decided that I might just drive off a cliff or something, and that's when I called 911," Daniel said.

But Daniel changed his mind and threw away his cellphone. That's when he says he hopped on a few buses to get to Mexico.

Once there, he says he met another American who paid him $700 a month to write content for a website.

"I built a very, very pleasant life there, but I decided, I kind of - it was very difficult to leave the kind of life that I had, so I thought it was best to come back and finish the unfinished chapter," Daniel said with a smile.

Daniel didn't want to get into specifics about the embezzling allegations without an attorney present.

He did say the funds he took from clients are still in his account and that he took off for Mexico with only $800.

Daniel says he didn't know if there was a warrant out for him.

He says he crossed the border back into the United States unsure of what might happen.

"The whole episode began somewhat extemporaneously, and I suspect it will end the same way," Daniel said.

"I'm happy to know he's alive," Joyce Daniel, Daniel's wife, said.

She didn't want to talk any more about the case, but on Thursday afternoon said she had only received second hand information that Daniel had been found at the border.

"I'm very sorry for everything that happened, and the way it happened. It was not some plan I conceived from the beginning," 'Scoop' Daniel said.

After missing several appointments in 2007, a coworker called authorities starting the search for Daniel. Police say the security camera failed to record when Daniel left the building, but they found his car, keys and his dog still at his office. J.B Katz, a friend and former law partner, says that police initially told her Daniel's office was in some disarray. Katz also says police mentioned a nine-second call to 911.

"In my 13 years as a lawyer in criminal law, I can tell you that the fact that there was a 911 call is disturbing," Katz said.

"A 911 call was made from 'Scoop' Daniel's cell phone at 7:48 a.m. There was a writing pen on the floor and a pair of sunglasses that were broken," Crystal Dean said. "We eliminated the possibility that this is a medical condition, so now we're going off three different angles it could be a physiological condition, foul play, or a willful disappearance."

The case drew a lot of attention around Breckenridge. It was hard to find a window that didn't have a missing person's poster of Royal "Scoop" Daniel III hanging in it, and residents like Richard Light say it's because everyone knows Scoop.

"If you have spent a week or 20 years in this town, you know 'Scoop,'" Light said.

Dean, who is formerly with the Breckenridge Police Department, says the case even gained national attention.

"It has become a national story, and I think just because the strange disappearance, no clues, really. [He's] just gone," Dean said.

Heidi Ruckriegle says Daniel is still the morning talk at the coffee shop where she works.

"He comes up in conversation, certainly when people are talking about scandal. It's a small community and people were really surprised that he could get away with such a thing," Ruckriegle said.

Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman says when Daniel disappeared, he left the country with a lot of money.

"We're dealing with several hundreds of thousands of dollars that we believe were stolen," Holman said.

After all this time, victims like Heather Fisher thought Daniel and their money were long gone.

"We paid him probably around two grand, not as much as others, but still a lot, and then he bailed," Fisher said.

Even police admit the case had grown cold until earlier this month when Daniel was found at the border.

"He was traveling on a bus out of Mexico coming across the border coming into the United States," Holman said.

Now that he's behind bars, those who lost money have one big question.

"Is anyone going to get their money back?" Fisher said.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert says the chances are better, but it's still unclear if that money can be recovered.

"That's our main priority right now is getting that money back from here on out," Hurlbert said.

Authorities are working to get Daniel back to Colorado, and back at the coffee shop Ruckriegle expects there will be a lot more 'Scoop' Daniel talk to come.

"This is big news for Breckenridge," Ruckriegle said.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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