Update: Federal Prosecutors charge McDonald on 34 criminal counts in EDA financial scandal
On Tuesday morning, August 31, former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Executive Director Jennifer McDonald was arrested on a 34 count indictment handed down by the Western District of Virginia Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Harrisonburg. The 40-paragraph True Bill elaborating on the charges to a Harrisonburg Grand Jury is dated August 25, and signed by Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Bubar. Of those 34 counts, 16 are for money laundering, 10 for bank fraud, 7 for wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft regarding someone identified only as “T.T.”
The charges and outline of the case in support of them (Jennifer McDonald Indictment) echo earlier criminal indictments filed at the state level before the State Special Prosecutor’s Office in Harrisonburg turned the case over to federal authorities in late 2019. The state special prosecutor had dropped the indictments it had filed to avoid speedy trial issues due to the volume of evidentiary material – estimated at 800,000 to over a million pages at the time. Failure to meet speedy trial deadlines could have led to defense motions for dismissal of charges on the criminal side of the EDA financial scandal case.
An attempt to reach McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun at his Fairfax office for detail on his client’s arrest and bond situation was unsuccessful prior to publication. However, a check of the RSW Jail website indicated no new booking of McDonald at the tri-county regional facility.
In a statement on the McDonald prosecution released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Harrisonburg at 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, it was noted that McDonald had an initial court appearance on the new federal charges earlier in the day and that she was released pending trial.
While not reaching McDonald’s attorney, Royal Examiner did reach Warren County EDA Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne, who circulated the indictment document Tuesday morning. We asked Browne for a reaction to the long-awaited development on the criminal side of the EDA financial scandal case.
“We’re going to continue to pursue the civil case and are pleased that justice is being served on the criminal side – it’s been a long time coming,” Browne said of the nearly two-year lag time on refiling of criminal charges related to what was a $26-million-dollar civil litigation related to the allegations of criminal misdirection and embezzlement of Town-County EDA assets. That total has climbed to a $62-million claim after McDonald’s bankruptcy filing involved the state bankruptcy court in the case.
“We don’t control the criminal side, but there are some familiar numbers in this criminal filing that reflect work done by the Cherry Bekaert staff,” Browne commented of the company the EDA contracted to investigate EDA financial records during the later years of McDonald’s executive director’s tenure. “Any help we can offer, we’ll be there for federal prosecutors. But our focus is on the civil side and bringing assets back to the community,” Browne added. He noted that federal authorities are forecasting a criminal trial for McDonald in 2022.
As recently reported out of the bankruptcy process, the EDA and McDonald have reached a no-fault agreement on a debt of $9-million by the former EDA executive director to the EDA. That agreement in which McDonald admits no wrongdoing, has also been accepted by EDA civil case Judge Bruce D. Albertson. Exactly how that agreement will result in payment of that debt remains to be seen on the civil case side.
Early in the civil process, then presiding Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey Jr. froze some real estate assets McDonald held in her name alone, while leaving others she co-held with other family members free of possible civil liability. However, since that time several of her family members have been named as co-defendants in the EDA civil litigation alleging a McDonald-led conspiracy to move EDA assets to the personal benefit of her and others. The defendant list in that civil case has climbed to as many as 23 co-defendants alleged to have conspired and/or benefitted from the alleged embezzlements.
What implication movement on the McDonald criminal case might have on charges against some, if any, of the civil case co-defendants, some who also previously faced criminal charges dropped by the state Special Prosecutor’s Office on speedy trial/dismissal concerns, remains to be seen.
Royal Examiner will publish additional information on this evolving situation as it becomes available. This story was updated at 3:55 p.m.
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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