DENVER — Acquaintances of a prominent Breckenridge lawyer who vanished more than four years ago say they're relieved that he resurfaced last week but upset about the allegations he stole up to $1 million from clients.
Sixty-six-year-old Royal Daniel was arrested Wednesday crossing into California from Mexico. He's awaiting transfer to Colorado, where he faces theft charges.
Daniel was widely regarded as a humanitarian when he disappeared in April 2007. Officials and volunteers launched a massive search amid concerns for his safety.
Less than two weeks later, police obtained a warrant for Daniel's arrest after clients told investigators he owed them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some clients said their money was supposed to be in escrow or trust accounts as part of real estate transactions.
"We all believed in him," Annie Halpin told The Denver Post in Sunday's editions. "I still think he did a lot of good in certain ways, but I'm terribly disappointed."
Halpin, who worked for Daniel as a paralegal, claims Daniel owes her $10,000 in salary.
"At least I will have an opportunity to ask him why," Halpin said. "I was so loyal. I would like to know why he didn't pay me anything."
When an arrest warrant was issued for Daniel in May 2007, Breckenridge police said up to $1 million in clients' money could be missing. Six former clients have filed lawsuits claiming that he mishandled a total of more than $735,000.
After his arrest, Daniel told KNSD-TV in San Diego that his financial problems drove him to consider suicide, but he left town instead.
He told the station he took only $800 with him and that his clients' money was in his bank account when he left.
Breckenridge Mayor John Warner, who has known Daniel for a dozen years, said that after the initial shock of the theft allegations, townspeople were generally relieved that Daniel probably was alive.
"Nobody wished him to be the victim of foul play," Warner said.