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EDA Attorney accuses former executive director of forging document

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Nothing’s changed from yesterday – the Warren County Courthouse continues to see a lot of action surrounding the alleged misappropriation of EDA assets. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

A bombshell dropped on the second day of motions hearings on the freezing of defendant assets in the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s civil suit seeking recovery of a minimum total of $17.6 million from nine defendants. At the center of that recovery effort is former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and two of her real estate companies, among several people and Limited Liability Companies (LLC’s) tied to those people.

That bombshell was an accusation by EDA Attorney Dan Whitten that a defense exhibit presented on McDonald’s behalf indicating EDA Board of Directors approval of a 2016, $2-million dollar transfer to its executive director to enact a land purchase was a forgery.

“I think this is a fraudulent document produced by Ms. McDonald,” Whitten told McDonald attorney Jay McDannell as he was questioned about the defense exhibit. Whitten observed that the board resolution authorizing an apparent wire transfer of funds to McDonald’s control was ostensibly approved and signed in closed session.

Whitten noted that such a binding financial resolution cannot be approved and signed in closed session, as it would constitute a violation of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) standards – “I was there and that did not happen in closed session … I believe this is a fictitious document created by Ms. McDonald,” Whitten told her attorney.

Dan Whitten, right, and Doug Stanley were both present in the WC Courthouse Thursday, May 30 – Whitten as a key witness in the EDA Civil litigation motions hearing; Stanley awaiting his turn with a crowded second floor lobby contingent, including supervisors Dan Murray Tony Carter, Archie Fox, Linda Glavis and Tom Sayre among others called to testify before the Special Grand Jury exploring potential criminality tied to the EDA civil litigation.

The “September 2016 – $2 million purchase” is cited in the civil complaint as one of McDonald’s unauthorized uses of EDA assets for personal gain. The complaint notes a check for $94,595 was drafted to McDonald real estate company DaBoyz LLC at the September 2016 closing with TLC Settlements.

Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. overruled plaintiff counsel Cullen Seltzer’s objection to the document’s introduction as an exhibit following Whitten’s assertion of his skepticism about its validity.

“There are a lot of people on here who are alive to say whether it is real,” Athey observed of the signature list.

Following that ruling Seltzer asked the court to direct McDonald’s counsel to cite “exactly where” the document came from. After an initial hesitancy telling the judge he did not know the precise origin of the document, McDannell told the court “from my client – she gave me a pile of documents and it was in there with them.”

Whitten’s stunning assertion of a forged document introduced by defense counsel led to a flurry of activity during a subsequent recess, leading to a recalling of former EDA Board Chairman and Vice Chairman Greg Drescher and the contacting of other surviving members of the EDA Board of Directors whose signatures are on the resolution. Those members include current Vice-Chairman Bruce Drummond, former Treasurer William “Billy” Biggs and former members Ron Llewellyn and William Sealock, the latter now Front Royal’s vice mayor. Two other members whose names are on the document, then Chairman Patty Wines and Jim Eastham are deceased.

Plaintiff counsel said it would attempt to contact those surviving members during an adjournment in the hearing. Following that adjournment Seltzer told the court he had contacted the EDA members in question but they would only be able to testify that afternoon through a phoned-in connection to the courtroom.

At the closing of the day’s hearing shortly before 5 p.m. Judge Athey instructed plaintiff co-counsel Seltzer and Lee Byrd to produce Drummond, Llewellyn, Sealock and Biggs for testimony on the document at 9 a.m. Friday morning. Told Biggs had expressed concerns about appearing due to the problems walking he cited in resigning from the EDA board last year, as well as memory issues from a stroke suffered several years ago, Athey said he would work to accommodate Biggs’ condition and minimize the time he needed to spend at the courthouse Friday in urging the attorneys to try and convince him to appear.

From left, Ron Llewellyn, Greg Drescher and Jennifer McDonald at 2017 EDA board meeting. Drescher testified that prior to the launch of the September 2018 EDA audit the EDA board “had complete trust on information brought on a day-to-day basis” by their executive director. Llewellyn will testify on his degree of trust, among other things, Friday.

However Drescher was already on the witness list and was back in short order to testify as to his knowledge of the document. Athey ruled that plaintiff counsel could not discuss the disputed document with Drescher prior to his testimony.

After covering several other topics, McDonald’s counsel arrived at the Closed Session Resolution authorizing the $2-million transfer.

Like Whitten, Drescher said the document was the familiar EDA Resolution document.

“It looks like your signature,” McDannell observed.

“It does,” Drescher replied.

“Does that look like the way your write dates?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have any reason to doubt its authenticity,” McDannell asked Drescher.

That question led to a lengthy pause as Drescher perused the one-page resolution document – “No,” Drescher replied as he scratched his head and cast a tight-lipped look the plaintiff attorney’s way.

Seltzer revisited Drescher’s assessment on cross examination. He noted the “CONFIDENTIAL” designation on the document and its wording asserting the closed session resolution held the same legal weight as other board resolutions.

“I don’t recall that ever happening,” Drescher replied.

“Do you have any memory of this one,” Seltzer asked Drescher of the resolution in his hand.

“I don’t.”

“Do you recall the EDA board ever approving Ms. McDonald’s purchase of a $2.5 million dollar farm for Curt Tran?”

“I don’t,” Drescher answered.

Earlier defense argument and witness questioning indicated what was termed “the Buck Mountain” property purchases involving William Vaught Jr., McDonald’s DaBoyz LLC real estate company, and TLC Settlements closing company had been made as a potential site for an industrial farming operation for Front Royal Farms LLC, an entity created by ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran. Tran and his ITFederal LLC are two other pivotal EDA civil suit defendants.

Asked if these additional factors altered his perception of the validity of the defense exhibit, Drescher said, “I guess I would, I don’t, I guess I would.”

The trust had yet to wane in June 2017 as Drescher and McDonald fielded tough questions about the workforce housing project at a joint work session with county supervisors.

The hearing reconvenes at 9 a.m. Friday in Warren County Circuit Court.

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Crime/Court

Front Royal man arrested on robbery and weapons charges

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D’Andre Lawrence. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

Early this morning, D’Andre Lawrence was arrested on felony robbery and weapons charges stemming from an early morning incident at the Blue Ridge Motel. Front Royal Police were called at approximately 1:30am to respond to an alleged robbery that had occurred at the local motel. The victim alleged that two individuals assaulted him and took an undisclosed amount of money and ran in the direction of Massanutten Avenue.

Lawrence was arrested on the mentioned charges and transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond. The second individual in this incident was identified as a male juvenile and is wanted for questioning.

Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to please contact Detective Z. King at 540-636-2208 or by email at zking@frontroyalva.com.

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Virginia State Police concludes investigation into inmate death at New River Regional Jail

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The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Wytheville Field Office has concluded its investigation into the September 2019 death of an inmate at the New River Valley Regional Jail. The case is closed and no charges will be placed in accordance with the findings of the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke and at the advisement of the City of Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney and Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

The investigation was conducted at the request of the New River Valley Regional Jail. On the evening of September 11, 2019, Radford University Police responded to a call at a campus facility concerning Aris Eduardo Lobo-Perez, 18, of Culpeper, Virginia. Police took him into custody shortly before midnight on a charge of public intoxication. As is standard procedure, Lobo-Perez was transported by the arresting agency to New River Valley Regional Jail in Pulaski County.

At approximately 7:20 a.m. on September 12, 2019, jail personnel approached Lobo-Perez to offer him breakfast, which he declined. It was at 7:50 a.m. that jail personnel found Lobo-Perez unresponsive in his cell. Despite the immediate efforts by jail personnel to resuscitate the inmate, Lobo-Perez was declared deceased at the jail. His remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke for examination and autopsy.

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Fugitive since 2015 arrested

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During the course of a preliminary investigation, Detective M.R. Ramey obtained credible information regarding the location of a wanted fugitive out of Prince George County, VA. With the assistance of the United States Marshal’s Service and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Derek S. Vrable, 34, was arrested without incident at a residence located in Warren County this afternoon. The underlying charges for this arrest were for Grand Larceny and Breaking and Entering. Vrable has been wanted on this violation since 2015.

Derek S. Vrable, 34, was arrested without incident at a residence located in Warren County.

 

Derek Vrable was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service and transported to the RSW Regional Jail by Warren County Sheriff’s Office where he is currently being held without bond. Other charges may be forthcoming in the near future regarding the initial criminal investigation. No further details are available in this case due to the pending nature of the active investigation.

The Front Royal Police Department would like to extend our thanks to the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in apprehending this individual.

Anyone who may have further information regarding this case is asked to please contact Detective M.R. Ramey at 540-636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

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School bus driver arrested and charged with kidnapping and abduction

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On March 4, 2020, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office received notice from the Warren County Middle School that a 13-year-old female student has made comments alleging an adult male bus driver has made inappropriate comments and advances toward her.

The school notified the School Resource Officer, and Warren County Sheriff’s Office Investigators arrived and contacted the victim’s parents and interviewed the young girl. WCSO Investigators located the alleged offender at his home. Agosto Andres Luzunaris, age 42 of Linden, Virginia, was arrested and charged with one count of Kidnapping and Abduction (class 5 felony) that occurred on or about December 2019 through March 2020. Luzunaris is currently being held without bond at the RSW Jail in Front Royal.

Agosto Andres Luzunaris, age 42 of Linden, Virginia, was arrested and charged with one count of Kidnapping and Abduction (class 5 felony). Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

 

WCSO says the investigation is ongoing; however, it has been reasonably determined there was no risk of harm to other children, and this was determined to be a localized incident. There were no complaints of physical damage to the victim, and the charges stem from allegations that the offender made inappropriate comments and physically restricted the movement of the victim on the school bus.

Melody Sheppard, Interim Superintendent, Warren County Public Schools responded, “Our primary concern is always the physical and emotional well-being of our students. Warren County Public Schools will continue to support the Warren County Sheriff’s Office investigation.”

 

Code of Virginia

§ 18.2-47. Abduction and kidnapping defined; punishment.

A. Any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to deprive such other person of his personal liberty or to withhold or conceal him from any person, authority or institution lawfully entitled to his charge, shall be deemed guilty of “abduction.”

B. Any person who, by force, intimidation or deception, and without legal justification or excuse, seizes, takes, transports, detains or secretes another person with the intent to subject him to forced labor or services shall be deemed guilty of “abduction.” For purposes of this subsection, the term “intimidation” shall include destroying, concealing, confiscating, withholding, or threatening to withhold a passport, immigration document, or other governmental identification or threatening to report another as being illegally present in the United States.

C. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duty. The terms “abduction” and “kidnapping” shall be synonymous in this Code. Abduction for which no punishment is otherwise prescribed shall be punished as a Class 5 felony.

D. If an offense under subsection A is committed by the parent of the person abducted and punishable as contempt of court in any proceeding then pending, the offense shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor in addition to being punishable as contempt of court. However, such offense, if committed by the parent of the person abducted and punishable as contempt of court in any proceeding then pending and the person abducted is removed from the Commonwealth by the abducting parent, shall be a Class 6 felony in addition to being punishable as contempt of court.

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Harrisonburg man charged following Loudoun County pursuit and shooting

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A Harrisonburg, Virginia, man faces multiple charges following a pursuit and a non-fatal officer-involved shooting Thursday evening (Feb. 27, 2020) in Loudoun County. Michael E. Bonner, 54, was released from Reston Hospital Center Friday afternoon (Feb. 28, 2020) and taken in state police custody. He has been charged in Loudoun County with grand larceny of a vehicle, eluding police, hit and run, driving without a driver’s license and unauthorized use of a stolen vehicle, and is being held at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center.

Michael Bonner – Courtesy Photo/Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office

The incident began at approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 27, 2020) when a 2017 Ford Escape passed a Virginia State Police trooper as they were traveling east on Route 50 in Loudoun County. The trooper’s license plate reader alerted the trooper that the Ford had been reported stolen out of Fairfax County. The trooper attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the Ford refused to stop and sped away on Route 50 near Tall Cedars Parkway. During the course of the pursuit, the Ford Escape reached speeds of up to 100 mph and rammed two state police vehicles that were attempting to contain the fleeing vehicle in order to bring it to a stop.

State police again surrounded the suspect vehicle and forced it to a stop on South Sterling Boulevard near Shaw Road in Loudoun County. During the course of engaging with the pursuit suspect in order to take him into custody, Bonner was shot at by state police. Bonner was transported to Reston Hospital Center for treatment of the non-life threatening injury.

The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Fairfax Field Office responded to the scene to investigate the officer-involved shooting, which remains under investigation at this time. Once the investigation is completed, state police will turn its findings over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review and adjudication.

No law enforcement personnel were injured in the incident, which remains under investigation at this time. In accordance with Department policy, the trooper involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave.

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Front Royal man arrested and charged for felony eluding and reckless driving

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On February 25, 2020, Front Royal Police Officer J. Treese attempted to conduct a traffic stop at approximately 8:30pm on a 2013 Chevy Corvette that was traveling at a high rate of speed in the 1400 block of N. Royal Avenue. The vehicle did not display a license plate and when the officer activated his emergency lights, the vehicle failed to yield, and a pursuit was initiated. The pursuit continued through several jurisdictions to include Warren County, Shenandoah County, Strasburg and Frederick County.

Front Royal officers discontinued the pursuit; however, the pursuit was re-initiated by Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police while on I-81. The vehicle stopped in Clarke County, where the driver fled from the vehicle on foot. The area was searched by Frederick and Clarke County deputies and the Virginia State Police; however, the driver was not located.

With the assistance of Upper Pottsgrove Township Police Department located in Pennsylvania, Front Royal Police has identified the driver as William Watson Allen IV. Charges were obtained on Allen for Felony Eluding and Reckless Driving. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office arrested William Watson Allen IV this morning just over the West Virginia state line. Allen was transported to the Eastern Regional Jail. Other charges may be forthcoming in this matter.

William Watson Allen IV. Photo courtesy of Front Royal Police Department.

Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to please contact Detective Ramey at 540-636-2208 or by email at mramey@frontroyalva.com.

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