A woman who played an integral role in an extortion plot that led a Bloomington man to kill himself told a Hennepin County judge Thursday that she was frightened and intimidated by the scheme's alleged mastermind, whose violence she had seen and at times experienced.
"I should have gone to the police, but I was afraid," Shannon Gura said of Rickey Pouncil during her sentencing for felony coercion. "I've seen this man put women's heads through walls. I've seen him put Crown Royal bottles over women's heads."
Gura, 27, who wiped her eyes with a purple scarf throughout the sentencing hearing, expressed remorse for her role in the May 2010 suicide of Daniel Kreye, 57.
For the past year, she said, she's been clean from drugs and alcohol, works, volunteers and raises her young son, who is "the only thing I have."
She broke down into sobs when District Judge Philip Bush sentenced her to 90 days in the Hennepin County workhouse. With good behavior and credit for jail time already served, she should be released in 41 days. She had previously pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors.
Bush called her involvement in the scheme that took at least $64,000 from Kreye, leading to his May 2010 suicide, "significant."
"You also were a very active and key part in that," the judge said. "Without your involvement, this whole thing may not have started."
According to charges, Gura and Pouncil, 46, an alleged pimp from Rosemount, blackmailed Kreye, who befriended Gura through Alcoholics Anonymous, for at least $64,000 by threatening to reveal an explicit photo and text messages to his wife of 31 years.
Kreye shot himself at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and left a note saying, "I am being extorted over $500,000. Best for my family and friends."
Days later Christina Artac, 32, a former prostitute, called his home pretending to be Gura in hopes of extorting more money and unaware that he had already taken his life.
Artac and Gura testified against Pouncil in a pre-sentencing hearing last month, painting him as the scheme's mastermind. All three pleaded guilty to felony coercion.
Gura and Artac both received stayed sentences. If they stay out of trouble for the next three years, they will be convicted of a misdemeanor.
Pouncil maintained that he only drove Gura to a parking lot to meet Kreye and acted as a bodyguard while she extorted the money. He is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 16. Kreye's family was not at either woman's sentencing but is expected to attend Pouncil's.
Gura is scheduled to report to the workhouse in two weeks. Though she has remorse, she said, she, like Artac, has taken steps to turn her life around and surround herself with a supportive, sober community.
"I get to wake up with a sense of pride and a sense of hope," she said. "I understand what I did, and I should have said no."
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921