Update: April Petty awaits Judge’s decision on motion to dismiss EDA civil case seeking return of $125,000 received from Jennifer McDonald during 2016 home sale process
(Author’s note: As of Saturday morning, May 28, at 11:15 a.m. this story has been updated with additional detail on the $125,000 check transferred from an EDA account by Jennifer McDonald to Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC during April Petty’s 2016 home sale process.)
Judge Bruce D. Albertson took dueling arguments on a defense motion to issue a summary judgment dismissing all civil claims regarding the FR-WC EDA’s action against defendant April Petty under advisement Tuesday afternoon, May 24. Cullen Seltzer represented the plaintiff EDA, now trading as the Warren County EDA in the wake of the Town of Front Royal pulling out of involvement as it litigates against the half-century-old joint Town-County EDA over disputed losses tied to the FR-WC EDA financial scandal. Petty was represented by defense counsel William Shmidheiser III.
Petty’s case, among a number of others alleged as beneficiaries and co-conspirators of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald are scheduled for civil court trials beginning in early July. Following taking the Petty motion under advisement the court dealt with jury selection issues with attorneys for a number of civil case defendants patched in by phone. Those included counsel for Truc “Curt” Tran and ITFederal, Donnie Poe and Earthlink Energy, Ms. Hassenplug, and Samuel North. With input from Circuit Court Clerk Angie Moore, it was decided a rather complex process involving a fairly large jury pool with begin Wednesday and Thursday June 29th and 30th.
The Petty dismissal motion filing dated April 21 targets all five aspects of the EDA’s civil case against Petty, scheduled for jury trial on July 5 and 6. All the civil liability aspects of the plaintiff EDA’s case against Petty revolve around receipt of a $125,000 EDA check from Jennifer McDonald that was applied to payment on a mortgage loan at Ocwen Loan Servicing on Petty’s home, during Petty’s 2016 effort to sell that home. That money is cited as part of the estimated $21 million in EDA assets that McDonald is alleged to have misdirected to unauthorized personal use and benefit of herself and others.
The five aspects of the plaintiff’s case against Petty are “Unjust Enrichment”, the receipt of benefit by one party from another without a reciprocal benefit to the other party (in this case the EDA); “Conversion” (unauthorized possession); application of the “ultra vires” standard of acting beyond one’s legal authority; “Conspiracy” in knowingly acting in concert with Jennifer McDonald in the receipt of misdirected EDA assets; and “Fraud” related to the “Conspiracy” allegation that Petty knew that $125,000 McDonald applied to her mortgage loan was money the EDA asserts was stolen.
Petty’s attorney pointed out that when an earlier grand jury was handing out blanket criminal indictments against alleged McDonald co-conspirators including two full EDA oversight boards, April Petty was not one of those indicted by the grand jury. Pointing to what he believes is a lack of evidence against his client having any knowledge of the alleged embezzlement conspiracy, Shmidheiser asserted to the court that “all the charges” related to the plaintiff’s “conspiracy theory” involving her should be dismissed. Essentially that is the final four of the five above EDA claims against Petty.
“All they had, have today is the check,” Shmidheiser told the court of the $125,000 check drawn on an EDA account appearing to be co-signed by McDonald and then EDA Board of Directors Chair Patricia Wines made to Ocwen (misspelled as Owen) Loan Servicing LLC that was applied to Petty’s home sale price.
At this point Judge Albertson asked defense counsel if McDonald had, in fact, transferred that money to April Petty. “Yes, but April Petty did not know that it was embezzled money,” her attorney said walking a legal tight rope between knowledge and consequence.
“You’re asking me to skip over the trial part of this case,” Judge Albertson told Shmidheiser. “Yes, I am,” defense counsel replied moving toward his argument against the “Unjust Enrichment” aspect of the case against Petty.
Noting his client’s belief McDonald was acting in her role as a real estate agent with Century 21 Real Estate in helping Petty accomplish the sale of her home, Shmidheiser asserted that his client was not by legal definition “unjustly enriched”. He elaborated that in exchange for the $125,000 check Petty believed was fronted to her mortgage loan to help facilitate her home sale, “plus another $210,000 Petty received at Closing on her home, she Deeded her house, which was listed for $330,000, to purchasers Mr. and Mrs. Leary,” Shmidheiser explained.
“She didn’t get money for nothing, she got money for her house,” the defense attorney later elaborated to this reporter on his courtroom arguments. During those arguments in support of his motion for a dismissal of the civil case against his client, Shmidheiser revealed how he prioritized his case for dismissal. And it appeared he felt the optimum legal path forward if a trial was required would be in dispelling the notion that April Petty was a conscious co-conspirator of Jennifer McDonald’s in her alleged embezzlement schemes.
“We’ll live with all but ‘Unjust Enrichment’,” Shmidheiser told the court of the prospect of a two-day trial in early July. “I’m confident we will win at trial,” Shmidheiser added of having to present the defense case to a jury on the conspiracy aspect of the EDA’s civil claims against his client.
Defense counsel also cited an established three-year statute of limitation standard he said the plaintiff had not met in charging his client for liability for funds she received in March 2016. The case of Belcher vs. Kirkwood was cited by Shmidheiser in support of the three-year statute of limitations having expired by the time his client was charged civilly. To not apply the three-year Statute of Limitations precedent would be tantamount to the court altering existing state legal precedent, which the defense attorney theorized would lead to a higher court reversal of denial of his motion for dismissal on the Unjust Enrichment aspect.
In countering Shmidheiser’s arguments, EDA attorney Cullen Seltzer disputed defense assertions surrounding the applicability of the Belcher vs. Kirkwood case in an alleged financial fraud not discovered at the time it was occurring in 2016 when Ms. Petty is believed by the plaintiff to have been involved. He also argued that the defense points being made in support of a motion for dismissal were more appropriate for a jury to hear for a finding of guilt or innocence.
For dismissal to be granted the defense must show that “no facts are in dispute” Seltzer told the court. And from the plaintiff’s perspective that is not the case. Seltzer noted that Petty admits the $125,000 check went to pay on her mortgage loan during her sale process.
“She was very anxious to sell,” Seltzer told the court of Petty’s motivation to accept money he said she had expressed “suspicion” about when offered. Of his client’s initial “suspicions” about the money offered from an EDA account referenced by the EDA attorney during arguments, Shmidheiser noted that Petty had been assured by, not only McDonald, but others that it was “business as usual” on the economic development/real estate transaction front.
Of Petty’s close friend Robin Richardson, who was said to have brought McDonald to Petty during her attempt to sell her house, plaintiff counsel told the court of a second transfer of funds. Seltzer asserted that when Petty put “almost $42,000 in her pocket from her home sale, she had given Ms. Richardson $10,000. Is there evidence that was money previously owed by Petty to Richardson or was it comparable to a “finder’s fee” for bringing McDonald into the picture to help facilitate the home sale with the $125,000 loan payment on Petty’s behalf, Seltzer asked the court.
And now both plaintiff and defendant are awaiting the court’s ruling on all aspects of the defense motion for summary judgment on dismissal of the case against April Petty.
Hit-and-Run incident involving pedestrians sparks urgent call for information
The Virginia State Police are reaching out to the public for their assistance in solving a hit-and-run incident that occurred on Saturday, June 3, in Clarke County. This alarming incident took place at a local McDonald’s parking lot, leaving two pedestrians injured. With an ongoing investigation, authorities are urgently appealing for any information that could help identify the driver responsible for this reckless act.
At approximately 10:45 am, Trooper S. Stinnett swiftly responded to a distress call reporting a hit-and-run accident at the intersection of Route 340 (Lord Fairfax Hwy) and Route 50 (John Mosby Hwy). According to eyewitnesses, a maroon or red-colored SUV was backing out of a parking spot when it collided with two pedestrians. Shockingly, the SUV driver fled the scene without rendering aid or providing identification.
Law enforcement authorities have provided a description of the hit-and-run driver, who is believed to be an adult female with blonde or light-colored hair. She was last seen wearing blue jeans and a white or light-colored shirt. The vehicle in question is a maroon or red-colored SUV of unknown make and model, possibly exhibiting damage on the driver-side rear.
Fortunately, the pedestrians, a 42-year-old female, and a 2-year-old male, sustained only minor injuries in this terrifying ordeal. Medical professionals promptly attended to them at the scene, ensuring their well-being. Nonetheless, the traumatic experience underscores the urgency of finding the responsible driver to prevent such incidents from occurring again.
To aid in the investigation, Virginia State Police are urging anyone with information related to the incident or the maroon SUV and its driver to come forward. If you witnessed the crash or have details that could assist in identifying the individual responsible, please contact the authorities at 540-662-3313 or dial #77 from your cell phone. Alternatively, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Every piece of information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, could be vital in solving this case.
Tragedy strikes Shenandoah County: Motorcycle rider dead, car driver charged with DUI, involuntary manslaughter
In a tragic turn of events, a two-vehicle crash in Shenandoah County resulted in the death of a motorcyclist and left another driver seriously injured. The Virginia State Police are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.
The collision, which occurred on Sunday, May 28, took place around noon on Route 11, also known as Old Valley Pike, just north of Mooreland Gap Road. According to reports, a 2013 Ford Edge, traveling southbound on Route 11, veered across the centerline, resulting in a head-on collision with a 2008 Harley-Davidson motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction.
The motorcyclist, identified as Bradley L. Painter, 57, of Mount Jackson, VA, was declared dead at the scene, succumbing to injuries sustained in the crash. Authorities confirmed that Painter was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
The driver of the Ford, 28-year-old Jony Salazar Ortiz from New Market, VA, sustained serious injuries in the crash. Emergency responders transported Ortiz to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital for treatment. Police confirmed that he was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the incident.
In a subsequent development, Ortiz was taken into custody and is facing severe charges related to the crash. Authorities have charged him with one felony count of driving under the influence leading to involuntary manslaughter and one misdemeanor count of driving without a valid operator’s license.
Ortiz is currently being held without bond at RSW Regional Jail.
The Virginia State Police are actively investigating the crash. More information will be released as the investigation continues, and anyone with further information is urged to contact the local authorities. The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the critical importance of responsible driving and the tragic consequences that can result from negligence on the road.
Joint Task Force Apprehends Child Pornography Suspect in Linden, Virginia
In a successful multi-jurisdictional operation, a Linden man was arrested on May 25th following an extensive child pornography investigation. John P. Farley Jr., 70, of the 900 block of Northern Spy Drive, Linden, was arrested and charged with 16 counts of child pornography-related offenses.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division (CID), upon receiving information from the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) Police, conducted a search warrant at Farley’s residence in March 2023. During this operation, several electronic devices from Farley’s home office were seized and handed over to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Digital Forensics Unit for detailed examination.
Upon scrutiny, it was revealed that out of a total of 68 flagged items, 16 met the strict definitions of child pornography under Virginia state law. These items were carefully assessed by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Hajduk, leading to the formal charges under Virginia Code § 18.2-374.1:1 against Farley.
This collaborative effort showcases the crucial role of cross-jurisdictional operations in combating internet crimes against children. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office is a dedicated member of the NOVA/DC Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, an initiative coordinated by the Virginia State Police.
This case underscores the effectiveness of collective efforts across multiple law enforcement bodies, with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office acknowledging the pivotal assistance from the MWAA Police and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
As the fight against child exploitation continues, the public is urged to contribute any relevant information. For any details related to this case or the potential exploitation of minors, please contact Investigator Hajduk at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 635-7100 ext. 2223 or via email at email@example.com.
Law enforcement agencies stress the importance of community engagement in identifying and detaining child predators, maintaining that collective vigilance plays a critical role in preserving the safety and welfare of our children.
Blue Ridge Task Force strikes major blow to local drug trade
A resident of Rappahannock County, Eric L. Butler, 45, has been arrested following a six-month-long investigation led by the Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force.
The Task Force executed a search warrant on Butler’s Brinkley Lane residence on Thursday, May 25. The operation led to the seizure of substantial amounts of illicit drugs, including 100 grams of cocaine, 20 grams of heroin, and 100 grams of marijuana. The drugs seized have an estimated street value of around $18,000.
Law enforcement officers also confiscated $21,792 in currency, a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe, and seven firearms during the raid.
Butler is now facing multiple felony charges related to drug trafficking and illegal firearm possession. Specifically, he has been charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute a schedule I/II drug, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, one count of possession of a firearm while in possession of a schedule I/II drug, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Following his arrest, Butler was transported to the RSW Regional Jail, where he is currently being held on a secured bond.
The Blue Ridge Narcotics and Gang Task Force, which led the investigation and subsequent arrest, is a coalition of law enforcement personnel from several local Sheriff’s Offices, Police Departments, and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Task Force includes members from the Rappahannock, Fauquier, Orange, Madison, and Culpeper Sheriff’s Offices; the Culpeper, Warrenton, and Orange Police Departments; and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
This operation underscores the ongoing efforts by local and state law enforcement agencies to tackle drug trafficking and associated crimes in Virginia. The successful arrest and charges brought against Butler represent a significant victory in these efforts. Residents are encouraged to report any suspicious activities to their local law enforcement agencies, as community involvement plays a crucial role in maintaining a safe and drug-free community.
Landlord-Tenant dispute escalates into gunfire at Shenandoah Farms residence
A long-standing dispute took a dangerous turn early this morning as shots were fired at a Shenandoah Farms residence. Local authorities were summoned to 100 block Mountain Laurel Lane following reports of a heated altercation involving a firearm. The address was previously known to the deputies due to an ongoing conflict between the landlord and the tenants.
Upon arriving at the scene, deputies gathered evidence, including eyewitness accounts and a cell phone video captured by a bystander. The investigation revealed that 68-year-old Alan Wayne Forney allegedly fired a 12-gauge shotgun into the air and above the head of another individual, Jessie Lake, during the heat of the argument.
Forney was promptly arrested on charges of brandishing and recklessly handling a firearm and subsequently transported to the Rappahannock/Warren/Shenandoah Jail. A 12-gauge shotgun believed to be used in the incident was collected from the scene as evidence.
As the investigation continues, officials are encouraging anyone with additional information to come forward. Contact Deputy Doffermire at 540-635-4128 with any relevant details that could aid in the investigation.
This incident serves as a chilling reminder of the potential escalation of ongoing disputes and the role of the community in ensuring safety.
Reckless firearm discharge leads to serious injury, 19-year-old in custody
A young woman was treated at Warren Memorial Hospital after a reckless firearm discharge resulted in a gunshot wound. Authorities report that the incident occurred outside town limits and is currently under investigation by Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
The Front Royal Police Department initially responded to a report from hospital staff regarding a gunshot wound victim who sought treatment at the facility. Quickly ascertaining that the shooting incident occurred outside their jurisdiction, they handed over the investigation to Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigation findings suggest that the female victim sustained her injury due to the reckless handling of a 9mm Glock handgun by 19-year-old Nathaniel Liam Duncan. The incident took place on May 19, 2023, around 22:15 hrs on Rt 55/Strasburg Rd, as the victim was driving from Shenandoah County. The occupants of the vehicle, including the suspect, had recently left a gathering where alcohol was consumed.
Witnesses report that Duncan started to show off the Glock firearm in the moving vehicle, to the surprise of many who were unaware of the weapon’s existence. Despite the urging of a female passenger to stow the firearm safely, Duncan negligently discharged it, with the bullet passing through the driver’s seat and into the driver’s body. Remarkably, the injured driver managed to drop off all passengers at a residence before seeking hospital treatment.
Authorities later apprehended Duncan at a Warren County residence without any incident. The Glock firearm suspected to have been used in the incident was recovered from a shed at the same property.
Duncan has since been charged under Code of Virginia 18.2-56.1 for Felony Reckless handling of a firearm causing serious bodily injury to another resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has expressed its gratitude to the Front Royal Police Department for their prompt involvement and assistance, which contributed significantly to the swift handling of the investigation.
This investigation is ongoing, and the authorities are appealing to anyone with information regarding the case to contact Lieutenant M. Glavis at (540) 635-7100 ext. 1. The incident serves as a grim reminder of the potential consequences of irresponsible firearm handling, particularly when alcohol is involved.
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