BOULDER, Colo. –
Since police began investigating Lisa Novak’s Boulder-based adoption agency, she’s lost her business, her livelihood and her home, and Novak’s family on Friday begged a judge not to punish her further by sending her to jail.
Boulder County District Court Judge Maria E. Berkenkotter denied that petition and sentenced Novak, 48, to 90 days in Boulder County Jail, 12 years of probation and 100 hours community service. Novak â who has moved to Maine with her husband and six children â also must pay back the tens of thousands of dollars she stole from families through her now-defunct Claar Foundation adoption agency.
As part of her probation, Novak was prohibited from doing any adoption-related work or running her own business.
The former Erie trustee was convicted by a jury in December of fraud, two counts of theft of $20,000 or more and theft between $1,000 and $20,000 â all felonies. She could have faced more than 31 years in prison.
Novak is appealing her conviction, and her family and attorney again argued Friday that she didn’t mean to defraud anyone, but that some adoptions didn’t work out because of a slumping business climate, changing international environment.
Prosecutors said Novak’s insistence that she did nothing wrong is exactly why she should be jailed.
“She still seems to claim no deceit here, but when you consider the evidence, the deceit was massive,” prosecutor Michael Foote said. “Novak is not an unlucky business person, she’s a thief.”
Novak’s family members said two of her adopted daughters are struggling apart from their mother and can’t handle losing her for three months, but Foote asked why Novak should be different than other convicted felons.
“I don’t think Novak should get a ‘get out of jail free card’ because she has a family,” Foote said.
Novak, who had not commented on the allegations since being charged, spoke in court Friday â at times through tears â about how she made mistakes but never had any ill intent.
“I now regret many of the choices we made,” Novak said. “But they were not made with criminal intent and were not criminal acts.”
Novak said she tried to do too much and please too many people, and years after starting her business she was diagnosed with an illness that made her weak, exhausted and unable to do her job as she had before.
“I didn’t realize how sick I was,” she said.
Martin Claar, Novak’s husband, said he was as involved in the business as his wife, and Novak shouldn’t have been the only person “chased” by prosecutors. She became the face of the business, he said, because she worked tirelessly with international agencies and clients.
Claar said he blames himself for the company’s struggles, but doesn’t think his wife did anything criminal.
“The only remorse I feel is that we kept working and sacrificed too much for other people,” he said.
But adoptive parent Linda Carlson-Singh told the court Friday that Novak is a skilled white-collar crook and liar who took tens of thousands of dollars from her family and stood in the way of her adoptions.
She said Novak caused her son to remain in an orphanage for months after being told his parents were coming to get him, and now he suffers from migraines, nightmares and anxiety.
“Every day he pleads, ‘You’re not gonna leave me, are you mama?'” she told the court.
After Friday’s sentencing, Carlson-Singh said she was glad Novak won’t be able to hurt more families.
“But this is all so sad,” she said. “Justice would be if this never happened in the first place.”