Former Quechee resident gets 51-month sentence in payroll embezzlement case

  • Ryan Wall, left, arrives at U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Glenn Russell photograph) GLENN RUSSELL

  • Ryan Wall arrives at U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Glenn Russell photograph) GLENN RUSSELL

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2020 1:16:47 PM
Modified: 6/17/2020 1:48:08 PM

RUTLAND — It was almost two years ago when Vanessa Wall examined the financial records of her family’s small business and discovered something that she says made her “whole world fall apart.”

Ryan Wall, her business partner and husband of 13 years, had embezzled about $1.2 million from clients at Twin State Business Services, the payroll and tax preparation firm that her parents owned in West Lebanon.

“When the person you cared about betrays you so deeply, it is something you can never overcome,” Vanessa Wall said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Rutland on Tuesday morning, which she joined by speakerphone.

She was one of eight victims who spoke during the sentencing for 42-year-old Ryan Wall, formerly of Quechee, who pleaded guilty in December to one count of wire fraud for embezzling money from clients whose payroll he’d handled over the course of six years.

Ryan Wall, who participated by video conference from his home in Florida, was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison in Florida, plus two years of supervised release.

An initial order at his sentencing called for him to make restitution of $470,000 to 18 victims. The order may be amended upwards if more of his victims file claims.

Prosecutors have said that instead of making full tax payments for clients to the Internal Revenue Service or the state tax departments in Vermont or New Hampshire, Wall kept some of the money, in part to buy drugs.

Even though clients did not realize their money wasn’t making it to the government, they nevertheless were on the hook to make the payments. Those financial losses were devastating to clients such as Sandi Jasmin, co-owner of J.A.S. Auto in White River Junction. She spoke at the hearing about the pain she felt after learning that Wall — who had been golfing with her son, and invited her family over for dinner — stole $117,000 from her business.

“I couldn’t believe Ryan could do this to any local businesses” Jasmin said in a phone call to the court, her voice breaking as she spoke. “I am disappointed and I am hurt.”

Her son, Toby Jasmin, who also works at the auto parts businesses, said it’s difficult to come back from such a financial blow.

“This one is going to leave a mark,” he added.

Wall, who was dressed in a button-down shirt and black tie, addressed the court and apologized to the victims, saying “not a day has gone by” that he hasn’t thought about them.

“My goal through all of this is to pay back every single penny that I have taken from all of you,” he said, adding, “Nothing will make up for what I did.”

He also blamed his actions on a drug addiction that he said stemmed partly from a difficult childhood. In a seven-page letter to the court, which Wall filed last week, he described his childhood, alleging that his mother suffered from alcoholism and that his parents separated when he was young.

Wall, who grew up in Barnard and graduated from Woodstock Union High School in 1995, earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from what was then known as Johnson State College.

In 2008, Wall was injured in a serious car crash. During his recovery, he was prescribed oxycodone, he wrote in his letter. A few years later, after his mother’s death in 2012, Wall wrote that “I became a shell of myself.” That’s when he developed an opioid addiction that “quickly grew into a $500 (per) day habit” and started stealing from clients to fund the habit, he said.

“In my state of addiction that didn’t seem to matter to me,” Wall wrote in the letter, going on to describe how over the course of 2018, his addiction worsened until he checked himself into a rehab facility.

He said he has been sober since then.

“I have hurt so many people along the way and have tried to make amends wherever possible,” he wrote.

Prior to sentencing, Wall’s attorney, David McColgin, argued in court that Wall should face a lighter sentence so he could get back to work to pay back the victims. McColgin asked U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford to impose a lighter sentence of less than two years in prison.

But some of the victims who addressed the court Tuesday, like Todd Holmes, who owns Valley Turf Services in White River Junction, called for a stricter sentence.

Holmes, who contracted with Wall for years, said he started getting suspicious when he got letters from the IRS asking about overdue payments. But Wall “always had an answer,” he said.

When the truth came out that Wall had embezzled $40,000 from him, Holmes said he felt betrayed. In 2019, he went online and saw pictures of Wall going out to dinners and concerts in Florida with a new girlfriend, all while Holmes struggled to pay overdue money to the IRS, Holmes said.

“I want to see him punished,” he said.

The feeling of betrayal was common among many of the victims who spoke at the hearing, especially Wall’s ex-wife, Vanessa, and her mother.

Choking back emotion, Vanessa Wall candidly discussed her marriage to Ryan Wall and the aftermath of her ex-husband’s crime. She recalled how she and her parents, John and Jacquelyn Rezzonico, had to undergo relentless questioning from the FBI about the stolen money. She remembered how her mother had a “stress-induced” heart attack following the discovery, and how her family “feared for (their) lives” after learning that Wall used the money to buy drugs.

“By far the hardest part was telling our clients,” Vanessa Wall said, adding that many of the clients — also victims in the case — were friends of hers, or individuals she considered close. “I know all of these people.”

Her mother, Jacquelyn Rezzonico, who started the tax firm with John Rezzonico in 1997, also spoke over the phone Tuesday, saying the financial loss has been insurmountable.

“I’ll never get restitution. I have no financial security,” she said. “My health is gone and my future is kind of grim.”

Ryan Wall appeared visibly upset as his ex-wife and former mother-in-law spoke, at one point burying his flushed face in his hands and wiping tears from his eyes.

After listening to victims’ statements, Crawford addressed Wall, calling him “fortunate in his education and career.” Crawford said many people who have been convicted of a crime come before him with deeply troubled home lives, difficult childhoods and a history of poverty, but that Wall did not fit that bill.

“Your education was good and your marriage was solid,” Crawford said. “The opportunism you showed in taking advantage of (clients) is a defining characteristic of your personality.”

He imposed the higher sentence, adding that the ripple effects of Wall’s crime mean that many former clients can no longer afford to retire and would never recover their losses.

“This crime is a highly serious violation of trust,” he added.

Wall is required to turn himself in to the Bureau of Prisons in Florida on Sept. 8 to begin serving his sentence.

 Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

Correction

R   yan Wall has acknowledged in court papers to embezzling $1.2 million from payroll clients of Twin State Business Services in West Lebanon but an initial order at his sentencing called for him to make restitution of $470,000 to 18 victims. The order may be amended upwards if more of his victims file claims. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how much he has been ordered to repay at this time.




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