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He’s back: Hollis Tharpe’s solicitation charge dropped – will run for mayor

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Flanked by colleagues Bill Sealock and Letasha Thompson, then Mayor Hollis Tharpe listens as former Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger addressed council on March 25 regarding past mistakes on the EDA front. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

An emotional Hollis Tharpe let one of his attorneys speak for him in the wake of Special Prosecutor Heather Hovermale’s request that Judge William W. Sharpe dismiss the misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charge against him Monday afternoon. It was a request Judge Sharpe granted.

“Based on this testimony the Commonwealth believes it cannot go forward,” Hovermale said after posing several questions to Cynthia Bailey, operator of a massage parlor on the 300 block of Biggs Drive in Front Royal. Bailey responded to each question, including whether she knew Tharpe or if he had ever touched her in a way she did not invite, asserting her Fifth Amendment right not to self incriminate.

As noted by her attorney David Downes prior to her questioning by the special prosecutor, the 55-year-old Bailey is facing two misdemeanor and two felony charges related to the operation of her massage parlor under the banner of Blue Valley Services.

Prior to questioning Bailey, Hovermale told the court prosecutors initially believed Bailey would be a cooperating witness, but later learned through her attorney that she planned to exercise her Fifth Amendment right if called as a witness in the Tharpe prosecution. Hovermale noted that the Commonwealth’s case against Tharpe revolved around Bailey, whom she observed was the only person present to hear the alleged solicitation request by Tharpe.

The whole hearing lasted 10 minutes, ending at 3 p.m., Monday afternoon, July 15.

Tharpe initially stopped outside the second-floor Warren County Circuit Courtroom B to address media present, but then quietly turned away arm in arm with his wife Debbie, saying, “I’m a little emotional right now,” as tears welled in his eyes and the couple moved away for some privacy.

Beau Bassler and David Hensley represented Tharpe. As Hensley returned to the courtroom for another case, Bassler commented on the outpouring of support his client had received from old friends and new – “Hundreds, thousands of people have sent prayers to him; they believe in him. He is a man of faith and that faith has taken him far. His wife, family and friends have all stood by him.”

Bassler noted his client’s resignation as mayor of Front Royal in the wake of the charges – “He stepped down so as not to be a distraction to the conduct of town government. Fortunately now the distraction in his life is over.”

“I guess it is appropriate at this time to announce I will be on the ballot for the November 5th election,” Tharpe did manage to say outside the courtroom. He said he had turned about 190 signatures in to the Voter Registrar to get on the mayoral ballot in November, 125 signatures are required to be put on the ballot.

After being indicted on the one misdemeanor count of solicitation by a Warren County Grand Jury, perhaps ironically whose foreman was now Interim Front Royal Mayor Matthew Tederick, on April 15, Tharpe initially announced he would place himself on administrative leave. But four days later on April 19 Tharpe said he would resign as mayor effective May 2. Tharpe explained his decisions as not wanting the charge against him to distract town government from the conduct of its business pending a resolution of his case.

At the time Tharpe called the misdemeanor charge against him “embarrassing” and “baseless”. He admitted to visiting the massage parlor, but for what he said were legitimate massages on his aching 67-year-old body.

Asked Monday if he now regretted stepping down as mayor, Tharpe said no. But he later added outside the courthouse, “They can’t take the mayor’s job away from me, the people gave it to me with 95% of the vote. Tharpe ran unopposed in his last election for a term slated to run to 2020. Interim Mayor Tederick has said he is not interested in seeking election to a full term.

Tharpe converses with constituent following March 25 meeting – could a reprise of such mayoral conversations be on the horizon following Monday’s developments?

Tharpe attorney Bassler praised the special prosecutor for her actions at Monday’s hearing. “Heather Hovermale is a fair prosecutor, a prosecutor of integrity. Instead of prolonging this to torture someone, in the face of developments in the case she let it go.”

Front Royal mayor poised for indictment on sexual solicitation charge

A Virginia State Police press release announcing Tharpe’s pending indictment on April 12 indicated Tharpe’s charge stemmed from an investigation launched at the direction of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

That there was an investigation into Tharpe went public on August 30, 2018, when Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden filed notice he would recuse himself from any possible prosecution relating to an “Investigation Concerning Hollis Tharpe”. Special Prosecutor Hovermale works out of the Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office of Marc Abrams, which was handed the case following Madden’s recusal announcement.

As press releases fly, plot thickens in Tharpe sex solicitation case

Had Bailey testified against Tharpe during Monday’s hearing, arguments on a change of venue request by the prosecution would have been heard. However in the wake of Bailey’s invocation of her Fifth Amendment right, the change of venue request became a moot point.

Trial date of Oct. 25 set in Tharpe solicitation case – prosecution seeks change of venue

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Harrisonburg woman pleads guilty to fatal overdose distribution

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HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Iza Mar Rosario-Cruzado, 31, of Harrisonburg, Va., pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. Rosario-Cruzado further admitted her distribution of this drug mixture resulted in an overdose death. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen made the announcement following the defendant’s guilty plea.

“Heroin laced with fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our district for the last several years,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to investigate and prosecute cases involving overdose deaths and hold dealers accountable under federal law.”

“This sentence is a great example of our efforts to keep our local communities safe from the spread of drugs. Heroin and fentanyl are extremely deadly substances and those who spread this poison across our cities, acting with blatant disregard for the lives of the people who live here, will not be tolerated,” said Special Against in Charge Jesse R. Fong of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington Field Division. “This case is a testament to the hard work DEA and our law enforcement partners do every day to keep these dangerous drugs out of the hands of our loved ones.”

According to court documents entered during yesterday’s hearing, on December 13, 2017, victim M.J.M. was found deceased following a heroin and fentanyl overdose. Investigators determined that the day prior, December 12, 2017, Rosario-Cruzado distributed a mixture of heroin and fentanyl to Richard Mansfield. Mansfield subsequently redistributed the same drugs to M.J.M., who ingested them, resulting in his overdose death.

On September 12, 2018, Mansfield pleaded guilty to one count of distributing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.

At sentencing, scheduled for December 17, 2019, Rosario-Cruzado faces between 12-16 years in years in federal prison, as agreed to as part of her plea agreement.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police, and Harrisonburg Police Department, with the assistance of Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha L. Garst. Assistant United States Attorney Jeb Terrien is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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Maryland man facing multiple charges after I-66 pursuit

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Jeremy M. Carr, 32, help without bond on multiple charges in the RSW jail. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

A Mechanicsville, Maryland man is behind bars for DUI and multiple other charges in three counties after he fled from law enforcement Friday (August 30, 2019).

Virginia State Police have charged Jeremy M. Carr, 32, in Warren, Fauquier, and Prince William counties with three counts reckless driving, three felony counts of eluding police, three counts driving on a suspended license, three counts of unauthorized use of an automobile, three counts of DUI, and three counts wearing a mask to conceal identity.

Also in Warren County, state police charged Carr with one felony count of hit-and-run, one count of failing to obey a traffic light, and one count of passing on a double-solid center line. In Prince William County, Carr was also charged with one count of passing on a double-solid center line.

State police initiated the traffic stop at approximately 7:57 a.m. as a 2010 Ford F-250 was traveling west on Interstate 66 at the 37 mile marker in Prince William County. The violation was for speeding – as the F-250 was driving 93 mph in a posted 70 mph zone.

The Ford continued west on I-66 and entered Fauquier County, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. The Ford F-250 finally pulled over and stopped on Route 340 in Warren County. The driver, Carr, was taken into custody without further incident.

During the course of the pursuit in Warren County, the Ford did strike another vehicle. No one in that vehicle was injured.

No state police troopers were injured in the course of the pursuit.

Carr is being held at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

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McDonald and husband receive secured bonds on new EDA-related charges

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Above, Jennifer McDonald upon her booking on Aug. 23; below, Sammy North being booked into RSW about an hour before his wife. Photos RSW Jail website

After spending the weekend in jail, both Jennifer McDonald and her husband “Sammy” North received secured bonds from Judge Bruce D. Albertson late Monday morning. By 11:07 a.m. both were remanded to the custody of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to be returned to Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Jail (RSW Jail) for processing out of the facility upon arrangement of the securing of their bonds.

McDonald and North joined Donald Poe in receiving bond from the court Monday morning. Poe was granted a $20,000 unsecured bond at a hearing convened at 8:45 a.m. He faces one new charge of money laundering.

$20,000 bond set for Poe; 10:30 a.m. hearing set for other 3 defendants

After hearing attorneys for the former EDA executive director and her spouse explain that the 14 new charges against her and three initial charges against her husband did, indeed, relate to the movement of money several years ago, Judge Albertson granted McDonald $25,000 secured bond on her new charges; and North a $10,000 secured bond on the three charges against him.
Albertson said he expected both McDonald and North to be able to meet those new bonds. He ordered neither to have contact with other EDA defendants, other than each other since they live together as husband and wife.

It became clear during the 10:30 a.m. video hearing with Judge Albertson from Harrisonburg at his home base court, that all the sealed special grand jury indictments against McDonald, North, William Lambert and Donald Poe handed down at the end of last week were new charges related to old transactions believed to involve embezzlement or the obtaining of EDA assets through false pretenses.

Donald Poe being processed into RSW on Aug. 23

Layton’s 8:45 a.m. bond hearing comment about the additional risk of flight stemming from the 14 new charges against McDonald related to the addition of what he estimated at as much as $800,000 of additional EDA assets being moved around 2017. He told the court those transactions involved obtaining wetland credits. Judge Albertson noted that in his first consideration of bond for McDonald, an amount of about $3 million in allegedly misdirected EDA assets was cited by the commonwealth, which was again represented by Bryan Layton.

In fact one conversation between Layton and the judge indicated that McDonald could be facing as much as 40 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines on charges now faced.

Attorney comments indicated the charges against North involve a real estate transaction dating to August 21, 2015. While that transaction is believed to have involved illegally-obtained EDA assets, it was observed by McDonald’s attorney that the involved real estate was not EDA property.

It was also noted that an April 11, 2019 date tied to some of the new charges against McDonald, was supposed to read April 11, 2017.

Defense attorneys Peter Greenspun (McDonald), Frank Reynolds (North) and William Ashwell (Poe) all told the court that when their clients were informed of the new indictments Friday, they voluntarily turned themselves in at the RSW Jail.

“He went to RSW at approximately the same time as his wife, I don’t know if they went down together,” North’s attorney Reynolds told the court. Reynolds also turned his client’s passport over to the court as a proffer for bond for North.

According to Greenspun McDonald waited several hours for law enforcement to arrive to provide the paperwork for her to be processed into jail. He said she arrived at the jail around 3 p.m. As reported on Friday McDonald was processed into RSW at 6:22 p.m., about an hour after her husband. Poe was booked about 10 minutes after McDonald early Friday evening.

All defense attorneys pointed to their clients’ family and business ties to the community in arguing for bond. About a dozen Poe family members were present, including son Jason who is running for Warren County Sheriff as the County Republican Committee nominee. Three McDonald family members were present, including her mother and aunt.

McDonald was initially arrested on May 24 and twice denied bond by Judge Clifford L. Athey as a potential flight risk. Chief 26th District Judge Albertson took over EDA criminal cases after Athey withdrew to prepare for his elevation to the Virginia State Appeals Court. However Athey has continued to preside over the Warren County Special Grand Jury empanelled to investigate potential criminality tied to the EDA financial fraud investigation. Albertson indicated he would soon be naming a replacement judge for the special grand jury as Athey’s move to the State Appeals Court next month nears. Albertson also said that appointment would not be him.

Citing the special grand jury pattern of Friday indictments and its six-month extension to continue to receive evidence, Greenspun requested the court to allow his client to simply have a hearing date set on any further charges she may face, rather than continue to face weekends in jail on repetitive and interrelated charges.

While appreciating the defense argument, Albertson said he felt the newly-appointed special grand jury judge, when seated, should be allowed to make a decision on grand jury indictment processes, rather than him as the presiding criminal case judge.

McDonald was released on bond from her initial incarceration on what grew from eight to 14 charges while she was jailed for the most part in the Fairfax Adult Detention Center, on a $50,000 secured bond on July 31. Poe, initially arrested on three charges July 23, was also released on bond by Albertson on July 31.

The other EDA criminal defendant, Michelle “Missy” Henry was released on bond July 23 after twice having bond hearing delayed due to judge availability. Henry was arrested on June 24 on two felony counts related to disbursement of B&G Goods’ assets.

Of the four people arrested Friday related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority financial fraud investigation, only William Lambert remains jailed. Former B&G Goods registered agent and co-owner Lambert was the final of the four EDA-related defendants to appear in court Friday morning, and the only one to appear without counsel.

With no assets other than a 1994 truck to his name, Judge Albertson ruled Lambert at least temporarily qualified for court-appointed counsel. The judge set a return hearing date for Friday, August 30 at 9 a.m. for Lambert to appear with an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office. However from the judge’s comments, it appeared Lambert’s new counsel may only be seeking a bond hearing date at that time.

William Lambert following his Aug. 23 booking

Lambert, like North, was arrested Friday on two felony counts of Fraud – Obtaining Money by False Pretenses and one count of Money Laundering – Financial Transaction, proceeds from known felony activity. North and Lambert became the fourth and fifth people indicted related to the Cherry Bekaert EDA financial fraud investigation and consequent civil litigation on behalf of the EDA.

That litigation filed March 26 sought recovery of $17.6 million of EDA assets, an amount now up around $21 million.

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$20,000 bond set for Poe; 10:30 a.m. hearing set for other 3 defendants

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Donald Poe

Some legal frustration was apparent Monday morning during an 8:45 a.m. video bond hearing related to the four EDA financial scandal arrests on Friday. That frustration was most apparent in Jennifer McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun, who had driven here from Fairfax, following Judge Bruce D. Albertson’s ruling on the bond request by Donald F. Poe’s attorney William Ashwell.

Albertson granted a $20,000 unsecured bond to Poe on the one new charge he was arrested on Friday, August 23. Albertson set a $20,000 secured bond for Poe on three earlier charges on July 31, the same day he granted a $50,000 secured bond to McDonald. Poe had been jailed a week, McDonald for two months at the time.

Poe was present in court for the 8:45 a.m. video hearing with the Harrisonburg-based Albertson who was preparing for his own court docket. About 11 Poe family members, including son Jason, were present for the hearing.

The Fairfax-based Greenspun bemoaned the pattern of Friday afternoon indictments stemming from the EDA Special Grand Jury investigation into potential criminality tied to the EDA civil litigation seeking the return of approximately $20 million in alleged embezzled or misdirected EDA assets. He was also frustrated that his client did not have a bond hearing on the Warren County Circuit Court docket to coincide with Poe’s.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton told Judge Albertson that in addition to the single new charge against Poe, there were multiple new charges against McDonald that primarily related to previous charges against her.

Jennifer McDonald

However, there was reference to one new charge the prosecution indicated the potential of money “being siphoned off” that could impact an increased risk of flight by defendant McDonald.

Albertson acquiesced to Greenspun’s request for a bond ruling prior to the defense attorney’s planned trip out of country on Thursday.

“It won’t be pretty,” the judge said in setting a 10:30 a.m. continuation of the bond hearing for McDonald. Albertson acknowledged that Warren County Circuit Court Judge William Sharp also had a docket Monday morning – but that he would do what he could to accommodate the defense requests for a ruling today.

McDonald’s husband Sammy North’s attorney Frank Reynolds also asked that his client be considered for bond at that time. It was not clear whether the fourth person arrested Friday, former B&G Goods principal William Lambert yet had counsel to represent him at 10:30 a.m.

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Questions on McDonald arrest linger as EDA quartet remains jailed at RSW

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Samuel David North after booking into RSW Jail Friday afternoon – Photos RSW Jail website

Following another week of Economic Development Authority Special Grand Jury interviews former EDA Executive Director Jennifer Rae McDonald, her husband, Samuel “Sammy” David North and Donald Fears Poe were booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Jail (RSW Jail) in the late afternoon and early evening hours of Friday, August 23.

According to the RSW Jail website, North, 51, was booked into the facility at 5:25 p.m. on two felony counts of Obtaining Money by False Pretenses and one felony count of Money Laundering – “Financial Transaction, proceeds from known felony activity”.

Jail records showed the 42-year-old McDonald being booked at 6:22 p.m. The jail website list of charges against her was 14, the number of her pre-existing charges. So it was not immediately clear if she was facing 14 additional charges or had been booked on a bond violation regarding her 14 pre-existing charges. The Jail website does not list individual case numbers, but only applicable State Codes regarding each charge. So until the case numbers related to her arrest can be verified with court or facility officials the question of McDonald’s arrest on bond violation, new charges, or some combination will remain.

The counts listed against McDonald include six Fraud – Obtain Money by False Pretenses; five Money Laundering counts and three Embezzlement charges. Since the EDA indictments are coming from the Grand Jury sealed there is no further detail on the charges available at this point.

Poe, 61, was shown being booked at 6:31 p.m. Friday evening on one new felony count of Money Laundering – “Financial Transaction, proceeds from known felony activity”. When Poe was arrested on July 23 he was charged with two felony counts of Obtaining Money by False Pretenses and one count of Perjury.

McDonald was arrested on May 24 on eight initial counts. She was twice served with additional charges while incarcerated. After twice being denied bond as a flight risk by Judge Clifford L. Athey, she was granted $50,000 secured bond on July 31, by newly-placed Judge Bruce D. Albertson.

Above, Jennifer McDonald upon being booked into RSW early Friday evening, Aug. 23; below, McDonald after her initial arrest and booking at RSW on May 24.

The special grand jury that has handed down criminal charges, now against four people, McDonald, her former EDA Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry, business partner Donald Poe and now her husband, was empanelled within a day of the EDA’s initial $17.6 million civil suit being filed on March 26. The amount of assets seeking recovery has since been raised to over $20 million.

A press release issued today indicated the EDA grand jury has requested a six-month extension to continue its inquiry into March of next year. It was also requested that Assistant Warren County Commonwealths’ Attorney Bryan Layton, who has worked with his boss Brian Madden on the EDA Special Grand Jury inquiry, continue as the lead prosecutor of the grand jury as Commonwealth’s Attorney Madden prepares to take a seat on the judicial bench.

McDonald was the central figure in the nine defendant EDA civil action of March 26. Other defendants included McDonald’s two real estate companies, D’BOYZ and MoveOn8, ITFederal LLC and its CEO Truc “Curt” Tran; Earth Right Energy LLC and its principals Poe and Justin Appleton and the late Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron. McEathron passed away on May 28 is what Virginia State Police classify as “an unattended death with a firearm nearby”.

Like McDonald, after spending some time in jail, both Henry and Poe were granted secured bonds. Henry was granted $2500 unsecured bond on July 23 after twice having a bond hearing continued in the wake of her June 24 arrest. Henry remains charged with two felony embezzlement charges related to the EDA’s involvement in the B&G Goods small business loan and asset disbursement upon its November 2016 closing.

As noted in a related story, B&G Goods registered agent and co-owner William Lambert became the fourth person arrested on EDA-related charges Friday.

UPDATE: B&G Goods William Lambert makes it four EDA arrests on August 23

McDonald and Poe were granted $50,000 and $20,000 secured bonds by Judge Bruce D. Albertson on July 31. Poe was arrested on July 23 on two financial and one perjury count related to EDA affairs.

No hearing dates were yet posted for McDonald, North, Poe or Lambert. However, presiding EDA case Judge Albertson is based in Harrisonburg, complicating bond hearing scheduling. He took over EDA cases when all county judges recused or indicated they were on the verge of recusal due to familiarity with people involved in the EDA sphere or other aspects of the investigation. However pending his promotion to the Virginia State Appeals Court, Judge Athey has continued to preside over the EDA Special Grand Jury inquiry as indicated by his signature on the August 21 extension and prosecutor orders.

In past hearings Albertson has indicated the possibility of presiding by conference call on basic matters.

Donald Poe upon becoming the third of four EDA defendants booked into RSW Jail the late afternoon and early evening of Aug. 23.

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UPDATE: B&G Goods William Lambert makes it four EDA arrests on August 23

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William “Billy” Waco Lambert. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

When it rains it pours – and it is raining in Economic Development Authority criminal indictment world this Friday, August 23. Former B&G Goods co-owner and registered agent William “Billy” Waco Lambert made it four people arrested, so far, today on sealed indictments handed down by the Warren County investigating criminality related to the EDA financial fraud investigation.

Lambert, believed to be a former fiancé of a McDonald sister, was booked at RSW Jail at 7:36 p.m. Friday evening. He is charged with two felony counts of Fraud – Obtain Money by False Pretenses and one count of Money Laundering – Financial Transaction, proceeds from known felony activity. Those charges are identical to the three Jennifer McDonald’s husband “Sammy” North was booked on just over two hours earlier, though whether they are directly or indirectly related is unknown.

Like others arrested Friday Lambert is thus far being held without bond pending a hearing date.

B&G Goods was the first business the EDA set up with a small business loan in the now-controversially purchased old Stokes Mart building at 504 East Main Street. The aftermath of selling off business assets following its November 2016 closing and investing in the business appears to be at the root of charges against former EDA Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry.

There is a seven-page section devoted to B&G Goods/Stokes Mart in the Cherry Bekaert financial fraud working papers summary.

It also appears that from how new indictments are being posted in the North, Poe and Lambert bookings at RSW Jail that Jennifer McDonald may be facing 14 new indictments today on top of the 14 she had already been arrested and released on bond on.

This developing story will be updated or augmented by additional stories as information becomes available.

McDonald, husband, Poe booked into RSW Jail Friday afternoon, August 23

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The first of a 5-part series of video presentations and discussion concerning faith and science will begin Monday, September 16th, 7:00 PM at the Warren County Community Center, 538 Villa Ave. (off W. 6th St.),[...]
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Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
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WomanGathering @ Middle of Main
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