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McDonald, Poe granted secured bonds on EDA criminal charges

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Jennifer McDonald was reported to be changing into street clothes and preparing to walk out of RSW Jail on bond at 4:25 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Jailed since May 24, the former EDA executive director was granted a $50,000 secured bond Wednesday morning in Warren County Circuit Court. Inmate Photos RSW Jail website

All three people charged criminally related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority financial fraud investigation should be free on bond by the end of the day. Both former EDA Executive Director Jennifer R. McDonald and Earth Right Energy controlling partner Donald F. Poe were granted bond in hearings Wednesday morning, July 31.

Michelle Henry was granted $2500 unsecured bond on July 23 after twice having a bond hearing continued in the wake of her June 24 arrest.

McDonald, whose bond appeal case was first on the Wednesday morning docket convened at 8:35 a.m., was granted a $50,000 secured bond by Judge Bruce D. Albertson.

Poe then received a $20,000 secured bond in the final of three EDA-related hearings on the docket before the Harrisonburg-based judge.

Donald Poe was returned to RSW Jail yesterday evening for his Wednesday bond hearing. Poe was in the process of being bonded out at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, though jail officials could not pinpoint how long from actually walking out the door on his $20,000 secured bond he might be. Poe was arrested July 23.

From discussion of the relative financial affairs of both defendants, it appeared their home properties would be used to secure the bonds. Defense counsel cited a $300,000 value with a $240,000 mortgage on McDonald’s home; and a $900,000 value on Poe’s.

Both McDonald and Poe were transported to RSW Regional Jail in the past day from the jails they had been transferred to for security and personnel concerns due to the high-profile nature of EDA-related cases in this community. In McDonald’s case that is the Fairfax Adult Detention Center and in Poe’s the Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center. According to the RSW Jail website Poe was re-booked into RSW at 6:34 p.m., Tuesday, July 30; McDonald at 4:15 a.m. this morning.

Asked about the bonding out process outside the courtroom Poe’s son Jason, a Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputy and candidate for Warren County Sheriff, said he believed the defendants would be processed out at RSW rather than have to return to the jails they have been housed at. RSW Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison later confirmed that scenario.

Among conditions of her bond McDonald was ordered to turn her passport in to be sealed and not secure another one; to maintain full-time residency at the Faith Way home she maintains with her husband in Front Royal; to be at that residence between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. nightly; not to leave the Commonwealth of Virginia; maintain employment but not have any business dealings with anyone involved with EDA business interests; to stay off EDA property; and not have contact with other EDA civil or criminal case defendants.

Poe was also ordered to maintain residence at the Passage Manor home he shares with his wife in Strasburg; not to have contact with EDA co-defendants; and approach the commonwealth with his attorney William Ashwell if any of his business interest would require him to leave the state.

Evidence of flight risk?

In appealing his client’s bond denial by Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr., McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun told the new presiding judge his client was due a presumption of bond without the prosecution showing substantial cause that she be considered a flight risk or danger to the community if released. Danger to the community, other than financial from the alleged embezzlements executed in her former position as EDA executive director, has not been at issue.

“If there’s a million-dollar check cashed and the money’s hidden somewhere – show us the evidence,” Greenspun told the court. He noted that some of her real estate and banking assets had been frozen by Judge Athey before he withdrew from the case, and that access to others had been granted so she could pay for a defense to the charges against her.

“We’ve looked at her bank accounts – there are no substantive assets there. She’s not a jewelry type or an art type,” Greenspun said of possession of expensive items that could be sold for large amounts of cash with which to potentially flee prosecution.

“Frankly we don’t know where all the money went – but it went through this defendant’s hands … I would caution the court about taking Ms. McDonald’s word about her assets,” Layton countered of Greenspun’s claims about his client’s financial status.

And while the initial charges against McDonald related to Afton Inn embezzlements involved a cited $30,000 to $40,000 in credit card and other payments, additional indictments have involved transactions involving as much as $3.5 million, Layton told the court.

Hearing testimony in Warren County Circuit Court has indicated the first set of charges against Jennifer McDonald involved alleged personal credit card and other payments cited as ‘Afton Inn Embezzlements’ of $30,000 to $40,000. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

Greenspun countered that his client remains in “essentially solitary confinement at the Fairfax Jail due to publicity surrounding the case” and that she had been hospitalized for five days in the wake of her arrival at the Fairfax Jail for “seizure-like activity”.

Greenspun said his client’s ability to participate in her own defense was extremely limited in jail; and he bemoaned the slow “drip, drip, drip” pace at which the EDA Special Grand Jury was moving on indictments.

He pointed to her community ties and revealed a surprise to much of that community, that his client has “adult children” and had missed the birth of a grandchild while in custody (maybe he meant step…).  Greenspun also pointed to Commonwealth counsel Layton’s numerous “interviews in local media” (how’d I miss all those, Bryan?) and accused the press “of doing its best to oppress her presumption of innocence” regarding his client.

Greenspun’s reference appears to be of media coverage of the Cherry Bekaert report allegations released into the public record by Judge Athey as the basis of the EDA civil litigation against McDonald and eight co-defendants. It might be noted that “local media” has also reported on defense motions and hearing arguments made in response to those allegations.

Judge Albertson adjourned court for 15 minutes before returning at 9:37 a.m. to render his decision.

In granting bond Judge Albertson cited looming speedy trial issues due to the complexity of the financial cases. He also observed that in many embezzlement cases he’d seen there was little money left at the end of the legal trail.

The judge pointed to the five year prison sentence for failure to appear for court dates when on released on bond.

Albertson noted that felony failure to appear “is much easier to prove than embezzlement” adding, “And when they are caught, and they always are,” they are facing that five years at the top of the sentencing ranges on the other charges they had been attempting to flee from.

“I don’t believe there is probable cause to deny bond,” Albertson said in granting the $50,000 secured bond for McDonald, who has been jailed since her May 24 arrest.

Motions & Hearing Dates

In addition to his bond denial appeal arguments Greenspun argued for greater access to the prosecution’s evidence against his client, including Special Grand Jury testimony.

“We agree to some, but not unfettered access,” Layton told the court.

“I guess I want unfettered access,” Greenspun countered, saying he saw no reason for limitations on defense access. Layton responded that evidence, not only for charges brought, but pending charges could be included in that grand jury material.

Albertson said he would take the evidentiary defense motions under advisement and rule by email by Friday.

Hearings dates were also set to accommodate both attorney and the Harrisonburg judge’s schedules. Those dates are October 15 at 3 p.m. for McDonald; November 7 at 9 a.m. for Henry; and August 30 at 9 a.m. for Poe.

According to RSW Jail staff McDonald was on the verge of being processed out of the facility at 4:25 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Poe was also in line to be bonded out, though how long that might take was unknown at 4:30 p.m.

The EDA criminal case defendants are scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 30 (Poe), Oct. 15 (McDonald) and Nov. 7 (Henry).

More detail on Poe’s bond hearing will be presented in a related Royal Examiner story.

Henry motions

Between McDonald and Poe’s hearings the third EDA criminal case defendant, Michelle “Missy” Henry who as noted above was already out on bond, heard a defense Bill of Particulars Motions request argued on her behalf. Co-counsel Ryan Nuzzo and David Hensley argued that a proper defense required more detail than offered in the two vaguely-worded and vaguely-dated special grand jury indictments against their client.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton countered that the Bill of Particulars request was premature at this stage of the case.

“I think Discovery will eliminate the need for a Bill of Particulars. The subject matter will become clear, and if it doesn’t we’ll come back to this motion,” Layton told the court.

Nuzzo countered that added detail at this point would help Henry’s defense determine if additional motions such as suppression needed to be filed – “Where did evidence come from? Was it acquired with or without search warrants?” Nuzzo said to illustrate his point.

After asking how close Discovery responses were to being filed, Judge Albertson agreed with the Commonwealth that their response to defense Discovery could solve the problem of specificity for the defense. Layton told the court the Discovery process was in the midst of an approximate 30 day timeframe.

If the prosecution response to Discovery doesn’t clear up specificity issues, Albertson said he would reconsider the defense Bill of Particulars Motion at that time.

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Crime/Court

Arrest made for Monday evening arson fire

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Warren County, VA – On Monday, October 21, 2019, at approximately 3:00 pm, Warren County Fire and Rescue Services responded to 8561 Winchester Road for a reported residential structure fire.

Units arrived on the scene and found a single story, single family dwelling with significant fire conditions throughout the first floor and attic system of the home. A second alarm was requested, bringing two additional engines from in the county and two additional mutual-aid engines from Middletown and Stephens City. As a result of the incident, crews were assisted by Warren County Sheriff Deputies and the Virginia Department of Transportation with the closure of northbound 522/340, Winchester Road. The road remained closed for approximately 1 hour throughout the incident. It took firefighters approximately 50 minutes to bring the fire under control. There were no reported injuries.

The fire caused an estimated $200,000 in damages and contents loss and displaced the occupants from the home. The occupants have received assistance from the American Red Cross.

The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire Investigators determined the fire was caused by an act of arson. Fire Investigators were joined by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division in a joint investigation. The investigation received assistance from the Town of Front Royal Police Department Criminal Investigations Division and the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office Canine Division.

As a result of the investigation, Ms. Shenisa Mohammed, (21 years of age) who was identified as an occupant of the home, has been charged in connection with the fire incident. Ms. Mohammed has been charged with a single felony count of § 18.2-77; Burning or destroying dwelling house and is being held without bond at the Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Warren Regional Jail.

Shenisa Mohammed. Photo courtesy of RSW Jail.

Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or Sergeant Daniel Maxfield with the Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-7100 or 540-635-4128.

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Crime/Court

Vehicle theft and arson investigation

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Warren County, VA – On Saturday, October 19, 2019, at approximately 6:30 am, Warren County Fire and Rescue units, along with Middletown Fire and Rescue units, were dispatched to the 800 block of Long Meadow Road for a reported motor vehicle crash with the vehicle on fire.

Units arrived on the scene and determined that the vehicle was completely burned and appeared abandoned along the side of the roadway.

The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire Investigators determined the fire was caused by an act of arson. Fire Investigators were joined by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division in a joint investigation.

The vehicle, identified as a 2006 Chevrolet Van, white in color with ladder racks on the roof, was determined to be stolen from the area of Poe’s Campground on Riverside Drive in Front Royal, between the hours of 1:00 am and 5:30 am Saturday morning. A large amount of Milwaukee power tools and tools related to the electrical trade were found to be removed from the vehicle before the fire.

Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or Investigator Scott Baker with the Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-7100 or 540-635-4128.

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Crime/Court

Suspect found in woods and charged thanks to citizens’ help

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Richard Matthew Crouch / Photo courtesy of RSW Jail

On September 29, 2019, at approximately 2:26 pm, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Communication’s received information that wanted subject Richard Matthew Crouch was seen in the 2100 block of Strasburg Road. Deputies responded to the area, and upon arrival, citizens reported that the male had entered the woods. Deputies set up a perimeter and had a K-9 respond to the location. The K-9 track led deputies to Richard Matthew Crouch, and he was taken into custody without incident.

Crouch was transported to RSW Regional Jail and was held without bond on the following charges:

  • Strangle Another Causing Wounding OR Injury (x8)
  • Assault: On Family Member (x2)
  • Malicious Bodily Injury
  • Abduction: By force, ETC, To Deprive of Liberty
  • SCH I/II: POS W/INTNT TO MAN/SELL/DIST

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the citizens of our community for their help, as it was instrumental in the capture of this individual. Contact for this incident is Lieutenant Smoot at 540-635-4128 or via email at ltsmoot@warrencountysheriff.org.

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Crime/Court

Suspects found and charged with Grand Larceny for theft of vehicle

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Derrick Aldine Malone and Dakota Leigh Free. Photos courtesy of RSW Jail.

On September 18, 2019, the Front Royal Police Department responded to the 800 block of John Marshall Highway for a reported larceny of a motor vehicle. The victim alleged that his 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer was stolen from the parking lot of 7-11 after leaving his vehicle running while he went into the store. Witnesses were interviewed on scene who advised they had observed two subjects, one male and one female, get into the vehicle and drive off.

A description of the vehicle and suspects were given to surrounding jurisdictions while the investigation continued. Detectives retrieved video footage from the 7-11 and confirmed witness statements.

On September 22, 2019, Front Royal Police Department received information that the stolen vehicle was possibly parked at the Hampton Inn in Front Royal. When Officers arrived, the vehicle was located parked in the back lot of the hotel and confirmed to be the stolen vehicle from earlier in the week. The vehicle was towed to the Front Royal Police Department to be processed and stored. The suspects were positively identified as Derrick Aldine Malone and Dakota Leigh Free, and both were detained without incident and charged with Grand Larceny for theft of the vehicle. Malone and Free are currently being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail without bond.

Anyone who has further information about this incident is asked to contact Detective D. Fogle at the Front Royal Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division at (540) 636-2208 or dfogle@frontroyalva.com.

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Crime/Court

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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Crime/Court

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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