Former Vail government employee accused of embezzling $854K

Problem Solvers
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VAIL, Colo. (KDVR) — Eagle County prosecutors say Ron Braden spent the last six years of his 24-year career as Vail’s information technology director embezzling funds from the town.

Braden faces numerous counts, including embezzlement, official misconduct and cyber crimes for allegedly stealing $854,915 between 2012 and 2018.

The 55-year-old was arrested July 4 during an encounter that was caught on police body cameras and obtained by the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

In the video, one can see Vail police stop Braden in his van and ask him to get out of the vehicle.

Instead, Braden responds, “No” and attempts to restart the engine and drive away. That’s when the body cam footage shows officers reach inside the car and grab Braden’s arm. One officer yells, “No, no, no, no. Ron, I’m telling you right now there is a warrant for your arrest. Get out of the car! Ron, I will rip you through this window if I have to.”

Braden responds, “Shoot me. F***ing Shoot me. F***ing shoot me. This is bulls**t.”

One officer then broke out Braden’s passenger side window to grab his keys, while the other two officers pulled Braden out of the car. Eventually, they struck him in abdomen with a knee to handcuff him. According to the affidavit, the three officers felt Braden was trying to reach for one of their weapons during the arrest.

After Braden is in custody, one can hear the following exchange on body cam between Ron Braden and Vail Police Cmdr. Ryan Kenney:

  • Kenney: “Fighting with the cops, Ron. Is that what you have become?”
  • Braden: “Dude, dude, F**k!”
  • Kenney: “Ron, you worked in civil service for 20 years and this is how you behave?”
  • Braden: “Twenty-five years!”
  • Kenney: “And this is how you behave?”
  • Braden: “I’ll be in prison for the rest of my life now.”
  • Kenney: “Why is that Ron?”
  • Braden: “You tell me.”
  • Kenney: “You know, Ron.”
  • Braden: “No, I don’t. I have charges against me?”
  • Kenney: “You do, Ron.”
  • Braden: “Then it’s over.”
  • Kenney: “A lot of charges, Ron.”

Resisting arrest led to additional charges against Braden, including assault on a peace officer, disarming a peace officer, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, obstructing a peace officer, resisting arrest and large capacity magazine prohibition.

Inside Braden’s van, the body cam video shows officers discovering ammunition and an AR-15 he’s not allowed to own. One officer is overheard saying, “Got a lot of ammunition. He’s not allowed to have that — he’s on probation.”

Braden was on probation because of a conviction related to prostitution. He was arrested in 2018 for soliciting an underage prostitute. Under his 2019 plea deal, he avoided jail time and having to register as a sex offender but received five years of probation.

After his prostitution arrest, Braden resigned as IT director for the town of Vail. 

Soon thereafter, the city’s finance department discovered questionable transactions dating back to 2012.

Prosecutors for the Fifth Judicial District (which includes Eagle County) allege Braden used his position as Vail’s IT director to steer inflated contracts to companies controlled by a long-time friend named Eric Nastri.

The arrest affidavit for the two men states, “Nastri kicked back 87% of the funds…to Branden.”

Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum told the Problem Solvers the two men were involved in a “billing and invoicing scheme where their own personal companies were set up to really accept the money from one to the other and ultimately into their own personal bank accounts.”

The arrest affidavit alleges Braden used the stolen funds to pay his defense attorneys for the prostitution case in neighboring Garfield County, to pay his taxes, school tuition, cars for his daughters and even to buy a car for a prostitute. 

Nastri has since bonded out of the Eagle County Jail but Braden remains in custody.

Both men have court appearances scheduled in August.

At the time Braden resigned in November 2018 he was making $132,462.34 a year. He has started his career with Vail in 1994.

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