Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jury Begins Deliberations in Novak Trial (Claar Foundation)

By Heath Urie (Contact)
Originally published 08:00 a.m., December 9, 2008 Updated 01:46 p.m., December 9, 2008

The fate of a former Erie trustee accused of stealing money from prospective parents who used her former Boulder-based adoption agency is now in the hands of a jury.

Lisa Novak, 48, began her trial on multiple theft and fraud charges last Monday. The trial was expected to last up to 12 days, however Novak's defense attorney, Lance Goff, did not call any witnesses and both sides were able to rest their cases on Monday.

Novak did not take the stand in her own defense. Her attorney told jurors that Novak's company policy was clear that fees from prospective parents were not refundable.

Prosecutor Michael Foote began his closing arguments Tuesday by telling the jury that the trial has been "sad."

“This trial was a sad one to sit through for many different reasons," he said. "It was sad to see someone like Lisa Novak stoop so low on so many occasions. It was sad to see so many of her clients betrayed."

Foote said Novak lied to clients.

“All they wanted to do was to bring a child into their family," he said. "Instead, they had to deal with Ms. Novak who was deceptive and manipulative all the way.”

Foote said Novak was the "president, CEO and accountant" of Claar Foundation, and that she was responsible for the decisions of the company.

Novak cannot hide behind a "corporate shield," he said.
Foote told the jury that Novak took her clients' money to sustain her own paycheck, knowing she could not return it or deliver on promises to hopeful families.

“Ms. Novak refuses to take responsibility for that manipulation," Foote said.

"Somebody needs to stand up and tell Ms. Novak this is wrong.”

“She won't do it herself. Ladies and gentlemen, that someone, is you.”

Novak's attorney, Lance Goff, began to deliver his closing arguments shortly after 12:20 p.m.

“This is a business failure case," Goff told the jury. “Every business that fails will be left with creditors. Every one of the complainants in this case is a creditor or potential creditor of Claar Foundation.”

Goff said all the clients who signed on with Novak's former company agreed to certain policies, including that refunding money was never an option.

“Claar Foundation's fee policy is very clear," Goff said. "All fees paid are for services rendered and are non-refundable.”

The panel of jurors were sent to deliberate Novak's fate beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Novak faces nine counts of theft and one count of fraud by check.

Novak is suspected of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from parents hoping to adopt children from other countries. Her former Boulder-based Claar Foundation is at the center of the allegations, with prosecutors saying she used the foundation to help settle a lawsuit brought by her brother.

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