The level of authority given former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald to pursue client contact leads and a consequent lack of oversight from her board of directors was a primary issue in testimony and closing arguments on Friday, May 31.
In fact, some professional tension was palpable between McDonald defense counsel Jay McDannell and lead EDA attorney Cullen Seltzer as they summarized the cases they had presented over 2-1/2 days leading to closing arguments beginning at 12:45 p.m., Friday afternoon. The result of that third and final day of the EDA civil suit motions hearing was previously reported in Royal Examiner, below:
In beginning his rebuttal to the plaintiff attorney’s closing statement McDannell referenced what he termed “vitriolic attacks on my client”. They were attacks he said he had tried not to respond in kind to – “That ends today” he told the court.
And he wasn’t kidding – McDonald’s attorney called the plaintiff case “craven and stupid” adding, “They put the cart before the horse” in an attempt to cover what he called “a failed filing” of the EDA $17.6 million civil action against nine defendants alleged to have engaged with McDonald in a wide, if compartmentalized conspiracy to embezzle or misdirect millions of dollars in EDA assets.
“The largest claim is a breach of contract claim for a contract that has never been breached – and it is against someone else,” McDannell noted of the $10 million loan the EDA secured from United Bank for ITFederal LLC and its CEO Truc “Curt” Tran.
In fact, a significant portion of former EDA board member Ron Llewellyn’s testimony, which was by far the lengthiest of four current or former board members called to testify Friday, addressed the process and rationale in acquiring that loan.
A nine-year board member prior to his resignation effective March 23, Llewellyn told the court that the ITFederal project “was considerably different than any other project we ever worked on … We were all excited about the first Brownfield site project,” Llewellyn noted of the first commercial client drawn to a planned 147-acre business park on the former 467-acre Avtex federal Superfund site in the Town of Front Royal.
Llewellyn testified he had concerns about the project early on due to an inability to find any substantive information about the company and its alleged $140-million or so in annual federal government contracts online. However, he noted that the EDA’s executive director always assured him she had verified the validity of the information about ITFederal and its government contracts.
“Did you ask how she verified it?” McDannell pressed Llewellyn on cross examination.
“No, not precisely,” Llewellyn admitted.
“Maybe because it was brought to us by the congressman due diligence wasn’t done. I couldn’t find anything online but Jennifer always had an explanation, I thought was through the congressman,” Llewellyn said.
“So it got credibility from Congressman Goodlatte – what would you say the impact of that was?” McDonald’s attorney asked.
“More than it should have,” Llewellyn testified about three-and-a-half to four years down the road from then U.S. Congressman Robert Goodlatte’s championing of ITFederal in 2014-2015 as a $40-million investor who would bring 600-plus high-paying tech jobs to this community.
In fact, Llewellyn recalled a conversation with Goodlatte at the October 2015 ITFederal ribbon-cutting here launching the idea of a $10 million loan to Tran’s company. Llewellyn said he, McDonald, then-EDA Board members Patty Wines, who was board chair, and Jim Eastham who was in banking professionally, were in the group with whom Goodlatte first broached the ITFederal loan idea.
Llewellyn testified that McDonald reported back that when first offered the loan, Tran had balked. However, the EDA decided to continue pursuing the loan after Goodlatte explained he wanted to be able to promote the Avtex Brownfield site “to other prospects by saying, ‘We not only got you this nice piece of land but financing for your project too’.
“So Jennifer went back to Tran and explained that Goodlatte said it needed to be done anyway (whether he needed it or not), and he says, ‘Okay’,” Llewellyn said of the process he recalled achieving the ITFederal bank loan.
What Llewellyn didn’t explain, and wasn’t really asked to at this hearing level, was why the EDA board would agree to extend a 30-year payback on a $10-million loan to Tran that the EDA has a 7-year balloon payment due to First Bank & Trust of Abington on. For you non-bankers out there, on the surface, those conflicting schedules mean the EDA must pay the loan back to the bank in full after seven years, while Tran has another 23 years to pay the balance on the $10 million back to the EDA. Talk about economic development working for YOU!
However, EDA Attorney Dan Whitten explained to Royal Examiner that the EDA has the option of renegotiating the monthly amount of Tran’s payback; and will likely attempt to refinance its loan payment to First Bank & Trust after those seven years. So if things go well the EDA may be able to continue to have Tran’s payments cover the cost of a refinanced bank loan. Whitten said the discrepancy likely occurred because the EDA-Tran terms were signed in September 2015 when the Town bridge loan was made to the EDA, and the EDA-First Bank & Trust terms were signed three months later when the bank loan was realized in December 2015.
And on the bright side, as Town Councilman Eugene Tewalt likes local media to stress, the Town of Front Royal DID get its twice-extended to three-months $10-million “bridge loan” to the EDA and Tran back in full when the loan through First Bank & Trust of Abingdon was accomplished. However as we also recall, the Town did lose out on two months of interest totaling around $8,000 because the term of the “bridge loan” was supposed to be a month and the bridge loan arrangement only included one month’s payment equal to what the Town had been collecting in monthly interest on those $10-million dollars in an investment account.
But back to the civil litigation hearing’s closing arguments of May 31, 2019: citing EDA “board failings of oversight” McDannell told the court of his clients’ culpability, “Her actions are attributable to them – not that she did everything right, but did she misunderstand the authority her board had given her?” McDannell asked rhetorically with a clear indication of his thoughts on an answer.
However in the plaintiff’s closing statement delivered first, Seltzer pointed to the testimony of the four former and current EDA board members heard that day. They were asked in to testify about Defense Exhibit 8 offered the previous day to illustrate board approval of a McDonald purchase of up to $2.5 million for potential use as an industrial cattle farm operation by a Tran company, Front Royal Farms LLC. Testimony indicated the planned Tran operation would produce beef to be sold in the Far East, particularly to Vietnam, Tran’s native country.
Former EDA Treasurer William Biggs, current Vice-Chairman Bruce Drummond, current Front Royal Vice-Mayor William Sealock, and Llewellyn all testified that they had not previously seen the Closed Session, Confidential Resolution authorizing McDonald to spend up to $2.5 million on a property for the cattle ranch land purchase on Trans’ behalf. That was the defense exhibit EDA Attorney Dan Whitten described during his Thursday testimony as a “fabricated document” produced by McDonald.
All four past and present EDA board members said Friday that while it appeared their signatures were on the document, they had not previously seen that particular resolution. They also verified Whitten’s testimony of the previous day that such a resolution would not be signed in closed session or likely be marked “Confidential” as it was.
The quartet of EDA board members also expressed varying degrees of knowledge or a lack thereof about EDA board discussion of Tran’s prospective Front Royal Farms operation. However, all agreed whatever discussion had occurred was far from the authorization of millions of EDA dollars to be committed to the purchase of land for such an endeavor.
Previous hearing testimony indicated that those parcels referred to as “the Buck Mountain properties” were sold back to the original owner William Vaught Jr. a month or so after purchased by McDonald real estate company DaBoyz LLC at a $600,000 loss.
“Even after she left (the EDA) she continued to conceal against those board members we heard from today. She betrayed that trust in the most pernicious ways,” Seltzer told the court in summarizing his case for attachment of $3.17 million of McDonald or her real estate companies’ assets.
Of Defense Exhibit 8, the EDA attorney called it “unbelievable, bare-faced contempt”, not only of her former board members but of the court in its attempt to render a judgment on the freezing or releasing of McDonald assets related to the civil litigation.
“She has attempted to deceive the court – I’ve never seen anything like that in a courtroom,” Seltzer said of the introduction of an apparently fraudulent document in support of a defense motion not to enjoin defendant assets.
The Sands-Anderson attorney made it clear he was not implicating his legal adversary in that deception – “He has been used by his client to perpetuate shocking deceit,” Seltzer told the court.
However, McDannell disputed that assessment, noting his client’s agreement to withdraw the document and her voluntary assertion that two properties under her control were being held in a “constructive trust” for the EDA.
He also pointed out to the court that his client had not tried to convert her real estate assets into cash and flee prior to facing the civil and criminal charges now hanging over her head, those latter charges leaving her incarcerated as a flight risk.
As reported in our above-linked initial story of the court ruling, Judge Athey took a middle ground in attaching some McDonald cash and real estate assets and not others, on the latter front leaving those co-owned with other family members alone, and on the former leaving her funds to pay for her defense against the felony criminal charges she faces.
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Two Dinwiddie, VA men arrested; firearms, felony assault, outstanding warrants & more
On Sunday, June 28th at approximately 02:21 AM, Deputy C. Clatterbuck, and Deputy R. Burleson conducted a traffic stop on Fort Valley Road in the area of the Shenandoah County line. During the stop, it was found that the driver of the vehicle was wanted out of another jurisdiction.
Another vehicle arrived at the scene that was traveling with the vehicle on the traffic stop. While Clatterbuck was interacting with the second vehicle, Clatterbuck heard a series of gunshots in the woods near him. After a few minutes, Clatterbuck heard a second round of gunshots in the woods closer to him. After investigation, it was found that the gunshots came from a male occupant of the second vehicle.
The male occupant, identified as Dakota M. Davis, 20, of Dinwiddie, VA, was taken into custody a short time later without incident. Davis was charged with 4.1-305 Underage Possession of Alcohol, 18.2-460 Obstruction of Justice, 18.2-56.1 Reckless Handling of a Firearm, 18.2-57 Felony Assault of LEO X2, and 18.2-388 Public Intoxication.
The male driver, identified as Michael C. Scites, 38, of Dinwiddie, VA, was taken into custody without incident. Scites was charged with 46.2-301 Driving Suspended/Revoked 3rd or subsequent offense, 18.2-250.1 possession of marijuana, and served with his outstanding warrants out of Henrico County.
Both Davis and Scites were held without bond and are currently at RSW Regional Jail. Warren County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Front Royal Police Department, Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office we would like to thank these agencies for their assistance.
Virginia Beach man arrested on charge of transmitting in interstate commerce a threat to injure or kill U.S. Senator
A Virginia man, who allegedly transmitted a threat via interstate commerce to kill a United States Senator, was arrested yesterday in Virginia Beach on a federal criminal complaint. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund made the announcement today following the defendant’s initial court appearance this afternoon.
Dylan Stephen Jayne, 37, of Virginia Beach, Va., was arrested yesterday on a federal criminal complaint and charged with one count of transmitting a threat via interstate commerce by leaving a voicemail message and threatening to kill a United States Senator.
According to court documents, on the morning of September 2, 2019, Jayne called the Abingdon office of United States Senator Mark Warner and threatened to kill the Senator regarding Jayne’s perceived lack of receiving Social Security payments.
The investigation of this matter is being conducted by the United States Capitol Police, and the Burlington, Vermont Police Department. The Virginia Beach Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the apprehension of the suspect. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer R. Bockhorst is prosecuting the case for the United States.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. All defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Two Frederick County residents charged in Bealton murder investigation
On Sunday, June 21, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office announced two additional arrests in the suspicious death investigation of a woman found deceased in Bealton on June 18. As previously reported, on Saturday, June 20, Melody Dawn Glascock, 54, was arrested by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office on charges of 1st Degree Murder and Obstruction of Justice, concealing evidence of a felony. Glascock was initially being held without bond in Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren (RSW) Regional Jail.
Now lead investigative agency Fauquier County has announced that two Stephens City residents have been arrested by Frederick County authorities on charges related to the Bealton murder investigation.
James Samuel Embrey III, 20, and Maria Dawn Embrey, 40, have been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder and are being held in the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.
The Fauquier Sheriff’s release states that “It is alleged that Melody Dawn Glascock conspired with both James Embrey and Maria Embrey to commit the murder of Kelly Marie Gray,” the release states.
Previously the deceased Bealton individual had only been identified as a 40-year-old woman with severe trauma to her abdomen area. The Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office report on the response to Gray’s residence states, “On Thursday, June 18, 2020, deputies responded to Gray’s apartment where she was found by a family member suffering from severe trauma to the torso. The homicide investigation quickly revealed suspects.”
It was also announced that Glascock was transferred over the weekend to the Fauquier County Adult Detention Center in Warrenton, where she remains incarcerated without bond. She now faces a third charge, conspiracy to commit murder.
UPDATE: Fauquier Sheriff ties Warren murder arrest to Bealton investigation
According to the RSW Jail website, a woman, Melody Dawn Glascock, 54, was booked into the facility at 8:34 a.m. Saturday morning, June 20, on a charge of 1st Degree Murder, non-capital, and Obstruction of Justice – the destruction of evidence of a felony. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office was listed as the arresting agency.
More on this story as information becomes available.
The Fauquier Sheriff’s Office has issued a press release tying the arrest of Melody D. Glascock in Warren County to their investigation of a suspicious death in Bealton on June 18. The release also notes that Glascock is a resident of Marshall, but did not add any detail to the circumstance of her arrest in Warren County.
Below is the Saturday morning, June 20 Fauquier release, followed by their June 19 release on the Bealton investigation:
FCSO NEWS RELEASE UPDATE
June 20, 2020 11:30 a.m.
UPDATE: An arrest has been made in the Thursday night homicide in Bealeton. MELODY DAWN GLASCOCK, 54, of Marshall, has been charged by Fauquier County detectives with 1st-degree murder and obstruction of justice. Glascock was apprehended this morning in Warren County and is currently held with no bond in the RSW Regional Jail. More information will be forthcoming.
FCSO NEWS RELEASE
June 19, 2020
BEALETON HOMICIDE UNDER INVESTIGATION
Deputies responded to a suspicious death at approximately 7 p.m. on Thursday night, June 18, 2020. Upon arriving in the 6300 block of Village Center Drive deputies located a deceased female in an apartment. The 40-year-old victim was apparently found when a family member returned home.
The victim suffered severe trauma to the torso. An autopsy will be conducted at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manassas, VA, on Friday, June 19, 2020, to determine the exact cause and manner of death. This incident is currently under investigation as a homicide.
Further information will be provided as it becomes available. Anyone with information about this homicide is asked to contact the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office at 540-347-3300.
Rappawan, Campbell Realty civil hearing date set; April Petty, Jesse Poe pre-trial hearing request under consideration by court
Although neither she nor her attorney was present live or virtually for scheduled Economic Development Authority civil case hearings Thursday morning, June 18, Jennifer McDonald’s presence was apparent throughout defense motion’s hearing arguments in the cases of defendants April Petty and Jesse Poe.
Prior to those arguments a hearing date of July 30, beginning at 8:30 a.m. was set for pre-trial motions in the cases of Rappawan Inc., and principal William Vaught Jr. and Century 21, Campbell Realty Inc., and principals Walter and Jeannette Campbell. Attorneys for those defendants were among the few physically present in the older, larger Warren County Circuit Courtroom with Judge Bruce D. Albertson Thursday morning.
The Campbells were represented by Warrenton attorney Peter Hansen; Rappawan and Vaught by local real estate attorney Joseph Silek Jr., though it appeared Hansen might also have a hand in the Rappawan case. However, he said he would defer to Silek on the availability of the July 30 date for that client.
It was noted that coming motions reply dates were July 10 for a plaintiff response to defense motions, and July 24 for a defense reply to the plaintiff’s assertions in their reply.
‘They didn’t know’
In arguing for a pre-trial plea in bar hearing for his clients, April Petty and Jesse Poe – the latter not to be confused with fellow civil defendant Donald Poe – attorney William Shmidheiser III repeatedly told the court he was not disputing lead civil defendant Jennifer McDonald’s embezzlement of the amounts of money cited in real estate home purchases McDonald achieved for his clients, rather he was asserting his clients had no knowledge that that money (totaling $410,000) had been embezzled.
So, Shmidheiser told Judge Albertson his clients should have the right to present their cases to him at a plea and bar hearing prior to the primary civil trial alleging a conspiracy among all 15 defendants to benefit from McDonald crimes, admitted or alleged, in an amount totaling over $21 million dollars.
The amount of embezzled money he cited involving his clients was $125,000 in Petty’s transaction and $285,000 in Jesse Poe’s. Their attorney said his clients recruited McDonald to be their real estate agent for home purchases from knowing her through family connections. Poe dated a niece of McDonald’s at the time, his attorney said; and Petty knew McDonald as the successful “golden child” of relatives she knew socially.
Shmidheiser said that if his clients could be proven to not have been involved in the larger conspiracy alleged by the plaintiff in a pre-trial plea and bar hearing, it would serve the “judicial economy” in simplifying and speeding up the primary case.
Arguing for the plaintiff EDA after being introduced to the court over phone connection by lead Sands Anderson/EDA attorney Cullen Seltzer, was Sean Hudson. Hudson countered the defense “judicial economy” argument, noting that Schmidheiser’s clients weren’t denying that embezzled funds had been used in their real estate transaction, only that they weren’t aware it was embezzled at the time of their home purchases with former EDA Executive Director McDonald acting as their real estate agent.
EDA attorney Hudson also noted that neither Petty nor Poe had offered to return the embezzled money utilized in their home purchases; adding his firm had not yet been able to depose either defendant, a conversation between plaintiff and defendants that could lead to a pre-trial settlement offer.
Defense counsel Shmidheiser countered that once involved, he had offered multiple dates for depositions of his clients but that an impasse with Sands Anderson over a location for those depositions – the law firm’s Richmond home base or Warren County where the case will be heard – had occurred.
Their attorney also noted that neither April Petty nor Jesse Poe had been indicted by the EDA Criminal Case Special Grand Jury after testifying before it, in Petty’s case at least, multiple times. That indicated the grand jury believed his clients’ stories, Schmidheiser asserted to the court.
“She would like some closure. She has a lot at stake,” her attorney said, pointing to her federal emergency management job.
As the arguments concluded, Judge Albertson returned to the oft-touched topic of “fairness” and asked plaintiff counsel if he thought it “fair” that the court is allowed to at least “consider a pre-trial resolution for two or more defendants”.
After a long pause, Hansen offered that he thought keeping the defendants in the primary civil action would achieve the best chance of a pre-trial settlement, ultimately serving to streamline the case to the desired “judicial economy”.
Judge Albertson then took the arguments under advisement.
Update: State Police add detail on Saturday night high-speed pursuit
In a press release issued Wednesday, June 17, shortly before 3 p.m. the Culpeper Office of the Virginia State Police added detail to the circumstance of the high speed chase through three counties the previous Saturday evening. As reported in Royal Examiner, that chase and apprehension led to multiple charges, criminal and traffic, against 33-year-old Bryan Douglas Walters of Luray.
Walters is currently being held without bond in the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County (RSW) Regional Jail.
The full text of the VSP release, which varies slightly on information gathered from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office on Front Royal Police involvement, is presented below:
“A Luray, Va. man is behind bars on multiple charges in two counties after he fled law enforcement Saturday (June 13, 2020). Virginia State Police have charged Bryan D. Walters, 33, in Warren County with two felony counts of assault on law enforcement, one felony count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice. In Frederick County, state police have charged Walters with one felony count of eluding law enforcement, and one count of driving while revoked.
“The pursuit Saturday was initiated by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. As it continued north on Route 11 entering Frederick County at approximately 8:29 p.m., state police took over the pursuit and continued behind the fleeing 2012 Jeep Patriot, until it finally crashed into the median on I-66 at the 2.8-mile marker in Warren County. The driver, Walters, was taken into custody without further incident. Walters was transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond.
“During the course of the pursuit Walters struck two state police cruisers. One of the state police troopers suffered minor injuries in that crash.
“The pursuit reached speeds of up to 100 mph.
“Please contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for details on why/how the pursuit was initiated and their charges.”