Editor’s note: This story was based on an audio recording between Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell and his deputies. Some language may be offensive to readers.
By Tobie Baker
The Cortez Journal
At a squad meeting last summer, Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell told his deputies that Robin Cronk was guilty of public corruption.
Days after Cronk was indicted by a Montezuma County grand jury on 17 felony counts of embezzlement and a lone misdemeanor charge of first-degree official misconduct, Spruell admitted to deputies on Aug. 23 that he was partly to blame for the situation, according to an audio recording obtained by The Cortez Journal. Spruell added he had placed all his trust into his second in command.
“Make me look good,” Spruell said he told Cronk. “He did exactly the opposite. He screwed me, big time.”
During the 25-minute meeting, Spruell said he initially believed that Cronk had made a mistake.
“Well, I’ve come to find out that’s all a bunch of bullshit,” Spruell said. “He’s a freaking thief. He did everything, but make me look good.”
Spruell also described Cronk as “stupid.”
“I think he wanted to get caught,” Spruell told deputies.
Tapped as undersheriff in January 2011, Cronk launched his embezzlement scheme one month later. Over the next 26 months, he abused multiple sheriffs’ office financial accounts, bilking taxpayers out of nearly $7,500 for personal gunsmithing services, vehicle maintenance, holsters, generators, gun components, ammunition and firearms.
Cronk was forced to resign his post on June 24, 2013, following a public corruptions probe by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
During the squad meeting, Spruell also admonished his troops that Cronk was not a “poor victim,” but rather a “damn liar.” Spruell outlined several allegations against Cronk, including his use of a company credit card to purchase a performance chip for his wife’s car and a $5,000 sniper rifle.
“You’re going to see a lot more tightening of the belt,” Spruell continued during the meeting. “I will know what’s going on in this agency.”
Spruell finally invited any deputy who thought Cronk was innocent to further discuss the matter with him.
“If there’s someone here in this group who thinks (Cronk) is innocent, please come sit down and have a big chat with me,” Spruell said. “And afterwards, if you still think he’s innocent, then please go find another job.”
Cronk pleaded guilty in March to one felony count of embezzlement and the misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. He was sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail.