(MCT) — CHICAGO—Over a nearly two-decade career in the competitive world of commercial real estate, Stephanie Pater , a former Tribune Co. executive, has worked all over the country in high-profile companies for powerful people.
But for three weeks now, the businesswoman has defiantly ducked a critical appointment before a federal judge who has issued not one but two arrest warrants since she has missed several court appearances on federal charges that she stole $260,000 from the Tribune Co.
After her latest no-show Tuesday, Pater promised to come straight to court from the airport after she claimed her flight had been delayed, but she never showed up. A peeved U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan issued the second arrest warrant in less than a week and demanded that she be taken into custody.
Reached by phone at his out-of-state home Wednesday, Pater’s father said he was unaware of her legal problems. He described his daughter, 39, as fully committed to her work in corporate real estate since earning an internship while still a senior at Emory University in Atlanta.
“She is into it full-time,” Daniel Pater said. “She has a tremendous multi-tasking ability. She deals with all kinds of problems and seems to be right on top of them.”
Pater’s father said the charges against his daughter are not in character for the divorced mother of a teenager.
Pater has been in touch with her court-appointed attorney by phone and by email with the judge’s clerk, but she has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises that she would make the next court appearance. Authorities are unsure of her current location.
“We still don’t know her whereabouts,” said Julie Kenney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which investigated the alleged fraud. “She still has not been apprehended and we’re going to be checking her last known address.”
Pater was born in San Antonio but was an Air Force “brat” who was raised mostly in Europe, her father said. She returned to the states as a teen and finished high school in South Carolina.
Once she got into the real estate business, her frequent job moves often were prompted by a corporate headhunter offering her a new opportunity, her father said.
According to her resume posted on the website LinkedIn, Pater worked at Kirkland & Ellis as director of real estate for just over a year before taking the same position at the Tribune Co. in January 2008 soon after Chicago real estate billionaire Sam Zell took control of the company. Her role included seeking buyers for Tribune Tower and Times Mirror Square in Los Angeles before those properties were taken off the market in 2009. Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Tribune.
Terry Holt, spokeswoman for Zell’s Equity Group Investments, declined to comment Wednesday.
Pater’s legal woes began after she left Tribune Co. in 2010 to form Catalyst Group to manage Tribune’s commercial real estate holdings. Pater diverted real estate commissions meant for Tribune Co. to her own company, the charges alleged.
Pater’s father said Wednesday that Catalyst shut its doors in the bad economy, but his daughter was soon contacted by American Express in New York.
An American Express spokeswoman said in an e-mail that Pater no longer worked for the company.
(Tribune reporter Jennifer Delgado contributed.)