Mountains

Court unseals Cronk case file

Cronk

By Tobie Baker Journal staff writer

A former lawman facing 17 counts of felony embezzlement placed classified newspaper ads to sell multiple firearms, three of which are directly connected to a public corruption investigation.

The unsealed 2-inch-thick case file against former Montezuma County Undersheriff Robin Cronk reveals that a Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s agent had questions involving an Armalite Sniper AR-30 rifle, a Remington VTR .308 caliber rifle and a Kimber .45 caliber handgun, all reportedly owned by the defendant.

Records from the Cortez Journal show that Cronk placed multiple classified ads in the newspaper from August 2010 through March 2013 in an attempt to sell each weapon.

He placed three separate ads in the Cortez Journal to sell the Remington rifle in 2011, first for $700 before dropping the price to $600; multiple ads in the Cortez Journal, Mancos Times and Dolores Star for the sniper rifle this past March; and one ad in the Cortez Journal to sell the handgun for $500 in 2010.

Unsealed last week, records contained inside the case file of Cronk’s alleged misuse of public funds reveal that District Attorney Will Furse and the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners both requested the state inquiry on April 10. Eight days later, CBI agent Randy Watts interviewed Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Det. Ted Meador.

According to unsealed documents, alarm bells started sounding for Meador in March 2011, when he and Cronk, his former supervisor, went to the sheriff’s office shooting range.

There, Meador said he was “surprised” to see Cronk was carrying a Remington .308 caliber bolt-action rifle, the same exact brand, make, model and caliber that the sheriff’s office had purchased for Meador’s use on the sniper team.

Cronk was not a member of that unit.

When questioned about the weapon on Wednesday, Meador declined to comment, citing it would be inappropriate considering a judge was expected to grant a gag order in the case.

In regard to the sniper rifle, court records reveal that Cronk used his sheriff’s office-issued credit card to add a hydrographic coating (a graphic imaging process) to the weapon.

Northwest Hydro Print in Washington billed taxpayers $527.60 for the gunsmithing services via Cronk’s sheriff’s department credit card.

The handgun advertised in the newspaper is believed to have belonged to Brad Ahrensfield, a former Albuquerque Police Department officer convicted in December 2010 on federal charges of obstructing justice.

According to court records, Ahrensfield asked Cronk to safeguard and keep two Kimber model pistols while he was incarcerated.

Ahrensfield’s conviction arose after he tipped off a friend about an undercover federal drug investigation. He was sentenced to a six-month prison term, followed by six months of house arrest and three years of probation. He was scheduled for release on Aug. 26, and court records reveal that Cronk made plans to meet with the convicted felon upon his release.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations reported to Watts that during Ahrensfield’s incarceration, he received numerous emails from Cronk, according to court records. In one email, Cronk reportedly wrote, “I’m sick of the justice system.”

Other weapons related to the CBI investigation include a $600 Springfield-brand .45 caliber handgun purchased by Cronk from a Scottsdale, Ariz., gun club using county funds.

Court records show Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials confirmed the firearm was shipped to Bradley Ray of Hesperus, Colo., a current Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

Meador told investigators that agency policy and procedures only allow deputies to carry Glock brand handguns.

The investigation also revealed that Cronk used county funds to have a $2,955 money order rushed for overnight delivery on June 6 to Charlie’s Armory, a Miami-based online gun store. Records show Cronk used the money order to purchase a .308 semi-automatic rifle.

Upon completing his investigation, records show CBI agent Watts recommended an arrest warrant be issued for Cronk, and he was subsequently arrested on July 17, approximately four weeks after he resigned his post as undersheriff.

After serving nearly two years as a deputy, Cronk was tapped as undersheriff in January 2011 following Sheriff Dennis Spruell’s election.

Nineteen items were listed on the search warrant, and officials reportedly confiscated numerous firearms and computers from Cronk’s residence as well as both a hard drive and an external digital storage device from his office at the sheriff’s department, according to court records.

The charges against Cronk stem from his alleged abuse of both a Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office credit card and checking account along with a sheriff’s office line of credit to pay for personal gunsmithing services, vehicle maintenance, holsters, generators, gun components, ammunition and firearms over a 26-month span starting in February 2011.

The 18-count grand jury indictment handed down last month alleges an “ongoing pattern” of public corruption by Cronk, revealing his personal items charged to taxpayers totaled $7,415.36.

The indictment includes 17 felony embezzlement charges and a lone charge of misdemeanor first-degree official misconduct, representative of a pattern of abuse.

Cronk is currently free on a $1,500 bond.

Cronk’s public defender was scheduled to argue for a gag order in the case before a district court judge late Thursday afternoon. Coverage of those proceedings will be published Tuesday, Sept. 10.

tbaker@cortezjournal.com

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