Bail has been set at $1.25 million for Rosemary Sauter-Frett, the former V.I. realtor who turned fugitive in 2010 after allegedly bilking her clients out of more than $2 million.
Sauter-Frett’s story has been told so many times over the years that it has almost become urban legend, and it was recounted once again Friday in V.I. Magistrate Court as Sauter-Frett – dressed in a red prison jumpsuit – appeared on St. Thomas to be advised of her rights on charges ranging from embezzlement to operating a criminal enterprise.
In February 2010, Sauter-Frett’s real estate firm on St. Thomas, RE/MAX Dream Properties in Lockhart Gardens, was closed and locked after Sauter-Frett disappeared and was being hunted down by local authorities. At that time, a V.I. Superior Court warrant was issued for her arrest after local real estate agents reported that checks worth tens of thousands of dollars drawn on the RE/MAX escrow account had bounced and clients reported that they were not able to close on their houses.
In court Friday, government attorney Denise George-Counts said that Sauter-Frett had gotten as far as Miami, but as authorities prepared to corner her before she boarded her next plane, Sauter-Frett gave them the slip once again. A federal warrant was since issued for her arrest but Sauter-Frett was not found until two months ago, when she was picked up by FBI agents in San Diego and brought in.
Initially she fought extradition and the V.I. government was in the process of getting a governor’s warrant to force her back. But she stopped fighting, George-Counts said, and V.I. Department of Justice agents were able to bring her back Thursday night. She was officially arrested around 10 p.m.
Sauter-Frett is facing 13 counts of embezzlement by fiduciary (with each count carrying a possible sentence of 10 years in prison) along with two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and charges under the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
A conviction under CICO alone could land Sauter-Frett in jail for 15 years with a fine of $500,000.
With Sauter-Frett now in the territory, government attorneys pushed the judge to set a bail amount that would help to keep her here.
"With the all her ties to the community, she still ran. The court should consider that," George-Counts said after Sauter-Frett’s defense attorney recommended that she be allowed to post 10 percent of the $1.25 million. After consideration, the judge sided with the government, saying that the "court found the charges to be serious" and was "concerned" that Sauter-Frett demonstrated a pattern of fleeing. She also described Sauter-Frett as a "danger to the community."
If she makes bail, Sauter-Frett will be on home confinement and electronic monitoring. In court Friday, Sauter-Frett’s daughter, Tammy Amaro, said she might be able to serve as temporary third-party custodian, but first has to discuss the arrangement with her husband. Amaro added that she would take her mother in until Sauter-Frett’s husband, Jacob Frett, installs a telephone line and can step in as a permanent third-party custodian.
Before she left island, Sauter-Frett was implicated in an alleged murder for hire plot to kill her husband, which came up in court when Sauter-Frett was called as a witness during the Dec. 2009 corruption trial of three men, including two V.I. Police officers.
Sauter-Frett will be arraigned April 24 at 9 a.m.