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Sheriff, ITFed principal Tran, Donnie Poe named with McDonald in EDA civil suit

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Aerial view of the old American Viscose Admin building where EDA headquarter are located, and apparently ground zero for an alleged conspiracy to misdirect at least $17.6 million in EDA assets. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

Mark this day on your calendar – on Tuesday afternoon, March 26, the first legal hammer fell in the wake of a six-month, quarter-million-dollar-plus investigation of Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (aka Industrial Development Authority) finances.

That hammer was the civil litigation authorized by the EDA Board of Directors on March 22, following a closed session presentation of CPA consultant findings related to the audit and investigation of EDA business practices.

Nine defendants are named in the 199-point civil filing for relief seeking a minimum $17,640,446 in damages split among the named defendants, both persons and LLC’s.


Defendants named in the action filed by the Sands-Anderson law firm shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday are former EDA Executive Director Jennifer R. McDonald (Front Royal); Donald F. Poe (Strasburg); Justin Appleton (Front Royal); Earth Right Energy Solar Commercial LLC, registered agent Mandy Newman (Strasburg); Truc “Curt” Tran (Great Falls, Va.); Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron (Front Royal); DaBoyz LLC, registered agent Jennifer McDonald (Front Royal); MoveOn8 LLC, registered agent Joseph F. Silek Jr. (Front Royal); and ITFederal LLC, registered agent Terry L. Fox (Burke, Va.).

In early 2018 Jennifer McDonald approached this reporter with a story about three years of slot-machine casino winnings totaling over $2.1 million to help explain a cash-rich real estate business under scrutiny by Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw.

The introduction to the complaint states, “From at least 2016 until 2018, Jennifer R. McDonald, in her capacity as Executive Director of the Industrial Development of the Town of Front Royal and the County of Warren, Virginia (“Warren EDA”), engaged in a variety of schemes to unlawfully take money from the Warren EDA for her personal benefit. This is an action against Defendant McDonald and other confederates and co-conspirators to redress these unlawful takings and recover assets that are lawfully the property of Warren EDA.”

Cited in the civil action are EDA projects including the “ITFederal Loan; Subsequent Payments to ITFederal; Work Force Housing – Royal Lane Property Embezzlements; Afton Inn Project Embezzlements; Criminal Justice Training Academy aka Skyline Regional Justice Training Academy; Unlawful Payments Concerning Earth Right Energy LLC; and Unlawful Payment of Town and Warren County Funds for Defendant McDonald Owned/Controlled Real Estate”.

The $10-million loan from the EDA to Truc ‘Curt’ Tran and other appropriations to his ITFederal business are apparently a big chunk of the minimum $17.6 million in misappropriated funds being sought in the EDA civil suit.

The civil filing states that “Defendant McDonald has admitted to improper activities and conduct in her capacity as Executive Director of the Warren EDA, including taking monies from the Town of Front Royal, Virginia (“Town”) and Warren County, Virginia (“County”) bank credit facilities for several purposes other than which they were intended.

“On December 20, 2018, Defendant McDonald admitted in an email communication to being liable for $2,700,000 in Warren EDA losses. This admission undervalues the extent of her theft and unlawful distributions, but is one indication of her consciousness of guilt in her conduct. ”

December 20, 2018 is the day McDonald resigned by email as the EDA Board of Directors was poised to go into a second closed session within a week to discuss her job performance.

Lengthy documentation, as stated above 199 points worth, is cited to describe the alleged scheme to misdirect EDA monies to other uses and pockets.

Neither then-EDA Chairman Greg Drescher, nor Jennifer McDonald appeared happy fielding questions about the workforce housing project at a joint EDA-county board work session on June 5, 2017. The date was coincidentally between two alleged crimes, a reported May 18 EDA office break in and a reported June 15 vandalism at McDonald’s home.

The method of relief for the plaintiff for the $17.6 million-plus in damages suffered by the IDA/EDA is cited as “Rescinding the … unlawful, and/or fraudulent transactions referenced in the complaint; Imposing all fees, costs, and expenses associated with the rescission against the Defendants jointly and severally; granting the $17,640,446 minimum judgment amongst the Defendants; Ordering the Defendants to return all Warren EDA property, real, personal, and financial, to the Warren EDA” and “Awarding the Warren EDA at least $1,000,000 in punitive damages jointly and severally against the Defendants” as well as attorneys fees “further relief deemed necessary in the interest of justice, fairness and equity.”

And you may have wondered by EDA Board Chairman Gray Blanton, who took over the chairmanship following Greg Drescher’s resignation last August as these developments began coming to light, has seemed a tad frustrated, tense and anxious in recent months for the result of the EDA audit investigation to come to light. An attempt to reach Blanton for comment prior to publication was unsuccessful.

Current EDA Board Chairman Gray Blanton has finally gotten the long-anticipated final report on EDA finances – but the news, as suspected, wasn’t good.

Sands-Anderson attorney Dan Siegel, center during May 2018 sign off on Valley Health loan, signed the cover letter to Circuit Court Clerk Darryl Funk with Tuesday’s civil filing on behalf of the EDA.

Sheriff McEathron behind his desk at the county Public Safety Building.  He announced last week that he would be retiring early, effective May 1, 2019. / Royal Examiner file photo.

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EDA in Focus

As County-directed EDA develops detailed Strategic Plan for the future, it moves toward joint meeting with Town counterpart

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The still legally named Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, more commonly now referenced as the WC EDA in the wake of the Front Royal Town Council’s circa 2019/20 withdrawal from participation*) held its regular monthly meeting for September, Monday afternoon the 26th, at the Warren County Government Center. With no action items on the agenda, the focus of County EDA Director Joe Petty and the five EDA Board of Director members were committee reports concerning discussion of a cooperative path forward and procedural adjustments surrounding a reworked Strategic Plan.

Asked about the EDA’s direction in the wake of the meeting, now full-time County EDA Director Petty said, “The meeting was productive in getting the Board of Directors thinking about assigned tasks for the upcoming Strategic Planning Session. There has been a lot of positive movement in the past few months and the Board is looking forward to continuing that momentum into the session by planning for the future. This includes having a cooperative relationship with the Town, FREDA, and County for economic development initiatives.”

The now County overseen EDA works toward clarity on a long-range Strategic Plan as it continues to move forward out of the cloud of the 2014-18 financial scandal and its legal and economic consequences. Below, a chart summarizing the July civil case awards the EDA achieved. The bottom lines are at center in yellow-highlighted column on ‘Total Verdict Damages’ awarded to EDA totaling $13,472,913.10 and the far-right, green column with Interest added, bringing the total to $14,215,694.10. With former executive director Jennifer McDonald’s out-of-court, no-fault settlement amount of about $9 million in real estate assets, the EDA has recovered $23 million – at least on paper – of the estimated $26 million in assets alleged to have been moved into private-sector hands without EDA board authority. However, all those July civil jury liability verdicts are facing defense motions to be overturned.

Board Chairman Jeff Browne launched the cooperative tone during his opening Executive Committee Report. He sought input on a preferred date for, and legal advice regarding, a largely social “get-to-know” each other meeting with the newly created Front Royal Economic Development Authority (FREDA) Board of Directors. With the meeting planned chiefly as a “getting to know each other” session with no business or action items scheduled, Browne inquired of EDA attorney Sharon Pandak, present remotely, if it would require the same legal notification as regular board meetings. Pandak said that with the intent that the two full boards be present, yes, published public notice of the date and time of the meeting would be required as usual.


Later Browne noted a recent meeting with Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell to discuss cooperative efforts between the now divided Town and County EDAs. And with Mayor Chris Holloway’s announced retirement from politics Cockrell is also essentially the Mayor-in-Waiting as the only person on the ballot for the mayor’s seat in the coming November Election.

Cooperative movement to a mutually agreeable end was also evident in discussion of a utility easement across WC EDA property at the Avtex site to allow Town crews to perform storm-water management work on existing infrastructure as needed in the future. A consensus was reached to put approval of at least a short-term agreement outlining what work and access is anticipated to eventually be on the table, on the EDA’s next regular monthly meeting agenda in October.

Also, during his Executive Committee Report, Browne noted an upcoming meeting with a senior member of the Council for Competitiveness regarding American companies, particularly supply chain businesses, planning to relocate from overseas seeking favorable locations in the U.S. “It seems like we’d be a really great location for them,” Browne said of the county with its Interstate Highway system crossroads location, as well as the Inland Port connection to the Norfolk Port Authority system.

After a brief discussion of some EDA properties insurance coverage issues forwarded by Jorie Martin, Jim Wolfe summarized work towards establishing goals for an upcoming Strategic Planning meeting slated for 8 a.m., potentially thru lunch time, on Friday, October 14. Chairman Browne pointed to a preparatory meeting envisioned for the previous Friday, October 7, where individually assigned tasks for board members related to the Strategic Plan update, budgetary and marketing matters would be reviewed to give the following week’s meeting a stronger jumping off point. Of the two-pronged October assault on the evolving Strategic Plan, Browne described a strategical perspective: “Focusing ultimately on the big picture – how do we assess competing priorities and reconnoiter them in terms of importance and their immediacy.”

That discussion segued into the Asset Committee Report of Greg Harold, who led off with the good news that with the Baugh Drive warehouse sale being finalized, that property was no longer on the EDA’s asset list. As to its remaining land assets, Harold pointed to the EDA’s recruitment of ULI (the Urban Land Institute) for assistance, particularly as to developmental and marketing issues with the redevelop-able 150 acres of the old 467-acre Avtex “Brownfield” site looming behind the EDA office complex on Kendrick Lane.

Queried later about ULI, County EDA Director Petty explained that “ULI is the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world.” Of ULI and its membership, Petty pointed to a goal of “delivering the mission, shaping the future of the (real estate/land use) industry, and creating thriving communities around the globe.”

County EDA Director Joe Petty, near left, addresses the EDA Board, from Petty’s left, Scott Jenkins, Jorie Martin, Jeff Browne, Greg Harold, and Jim Wolfe.

During his presentation Harold noted that ULI’s team of professional land developers could help the EDA determine, not only a highest or best-use of a given property like the aforementioned “Brownfield” Avtex site, but also “the most realistic” and achievable uses.

“It’s not free – it costs money,” Harold pointed out to his colleagues. But with a worldwide track record of success for its members, it could be money well-spent in jump-starting the long floundering Avtex/Royal Phoenix site redevelopment, Harold noted. “I’ve come to the realization that for me Avtex is too big for me to try to figure out what to do with,” the Asset Committee chairman observed of the gorilla in the room of EDA property assets.

“What you’re talking about, is where needed bringing a level of additional professionalism into it, to help make us make good decisions and avoid things that we may not, just from a lack of experience, know about,” Browne observed of the benefit of ULI input.

The Future, if not NOW – flashing back to coach George Allen’s “The Future is Now” slogan for his Washington NFL team – certainly appears to be on the horizon for the WC EDA.


*FOOTNOTE – Against the advice of then-Mayor Eugene Tewalt, during the term of Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick, circa 2019/20, the Town Council elected to ignore offered “good-faith negotiations” to determine who was owed exactly what in the wake of the estimated $26-million joint-Town-County EDA financial scandal, in favor of hostile civil litigation over the Town’s unilaterally claimed losses.

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EDA in Focus

Poe joins EDA civil defendants in motions to nullify civil liability verdicts; Tran counsel granted additional time to file their motion to overturn jury verdict

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After expressing some initial reluctance to invest more in legal fees attempting to overturn a Warren County Civil Court jury’s ruling of approximately $1.3 million in base ($945,000) and punitive ($409,800) damages against him and his Earth Right Energy (ERE) company, Donald Poe joined the line of EDA civil case defendants seeking to have Judge Bruce D. Albertson overturn jury liability verdicts rendered in July. The Poe/ERE “Motion To Set Aside Jury Verdict Or In The Alternative To Award A New Trial” was received and filed in Warren County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office on Tuesday, September 6.

 

Local developer Donald Poe will join other EDA civil case defendants in seeking a judicial overturn of jury verdicts of financial liability connected to the EDA financial scandal of 2014-18 swirling around former EDA executive director Jennifer McDonald.

The rationale for that motion was along the lines of previous filings by counsel for April Petty, William Lambert, and a still pending one for Truc “Curt” Tran. The defendants’ contention is that the jury verdicts were based on evidence that did not meet a civil code standard to justify the finding of liability in each defendants’ case. Similar motions to strike plaintiff EDA evidence and their cases against the defendants were made by defense counsel and denied at the outset of several of those July trials. To those arguments forwarded by defense counsel on several occasions, Judge Albertson responded that it was “for the jury to decide” the relative weight of evidence to be presented.

In a related development, on August 25 over the objection of plaintiff EDA counsel, Judge Albertson granted Tran/ITFederal counsel’s request for additional time to complete its filing for overturning of the jury’s finding of compensatory liability of about $12 million-plus some interest against Tran and ITFederal. The judge set a new filing schedule of September 15 for defense filings, plaintiff responses by October 17, and defendant replies to plaintiff’s response by October 27. An initial defense motion to overturn filing date was set for 31 days from the July 28 jury verdict in that case. Running towards an August 28 deadline on that schedule, Tran counsel sought the additional time, as noted above, granted over the plaintiff’s objection.


Truc ‘Curt’ Tran’s attorneys have received an extension to next Thursday, Sept. 15, to file their motion to overturn the jury verdict of civil liability of over $12-million from Tran and his ITFederal company.

As part of his order granting the filing extension for Tran/ITFederal, Judge Albertson ordered the defendants not to move substantial company or personal assets during the moves toward a final court ruling on the verdict: “Tran and IT Federal (on behalf of itself and on behalf of its wholly-owned subsidiary Lewisburg Way, LLC) shall not sell 943 Happy Creek Road before the court enters its final order, consistent with Code 55.1-400, which precludes fraudulent conveyances,” the judge began, adding, “Mr. Tran and IT Federal shall not dispose of, encumber, or waste any assets of IT Federal. In the same vein, IT Federal and Tran shall not gift, convey, assign, transfer or otherwise dispose of, encumber, or waste any personal assets to delay, hinder, or defraud the Warren EDA as a creditor.”

Motions to set aside the jury verdict of $125,000 of compensatory liability in April Petty’s case was filed with the court on July 28; and in William Lambert’s jury finding of $350,000 of compensatory liability, the motion to overturn was filed on August 18.

And the jury trial of Samuel North, cancelled in July following North’s filing of bankruptcy, has been rescheduled for October 25, beginning at 8:30 a.m. North is former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s husband. The central figure in the EDA “financial scandal”, McDonald reached a no-fault settlement agreement in her civil liability case with the FR-WC EDA. She agreed to turn over $9 million in assets, largely real estate, to the EDA to settle their claims against her; while admitting no fault in her acquisition of those assets.

She still is facing criminal trial in federal court in the Western District of Virginia on multiple charges related to the investigation into EDA finances during her executive director’s tenure. Due to its complexity and the amount of involved evidence – cited at over a million pages of documentation – that trial originally scheduled for as many as five weeks this fall, has been pushed into May 2023.

Jennifer McDonald on the job with her then EDA Board of Directors in Sept. 2018. While there were still smiles then, just 3 months later on Dec. 20, she would resign under pressure from that board as investigations into EDA finances revealed some unapproved or unexplained transactions under her authority.

See trial and verdict stories on the Royal Examiner website front page under the NEWS banner at sub-section “EDA IN FOCUS“.

 

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EDA in Focus

FR-WC EDA finalizes $5.7-million sale of Baugh Drive warehouse to Shahi Foods

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The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) is pleased to announce that Shahi Food, LLC is the new owner of 426 Baugh Drive in Stephens Industrial Park. The new property owners will relocate and expand their successful family-owned business to Warren County.

WC EDA graphic of the 426 Baugh Dr. warehouse in the Stephens Industrial Park. It is now been sold to Shahi Foods, a specialty ice cream bar manufacturer.

The FR-WC EDA originally purchased the property in 2018 and has since been exercising thorough due diligence and recruitment, which led to today’s announcement the contracted $5.7M sale of the property has been finalized. Shahi Food, LLC projects a $7M capital investment and a 5-year employment projection of 100 individuals and begins manufacturing operations at the Baugh Drive site in late 2022/early 2023.

Shahi is currently based in a nearby county and has been in business for over 30 years. They produce an ethnic ice cream bar called Shahi Kulfi in 6 flavors – chocolate, strawberry, cream, pistachio, mango, and coconut. They currently distribute to over 2000 retail outlets in 20 states and have a large market presence in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Ohio, and Virginia. Shahi is approved for retail sales in large grocery and warehouse stores in the US and has received approvals for European distribution of their products. Shahi Food, LLC’s parent company is Shadchem—an international food and consumer products group with a presence in over 16 countries.


“This announcement is the culmination of an intentional and active effort by the FR-WC EDA Board of Directors to bring companies to Warren County that provide quality jobs and values to our
community,” said EDA Chair Jeff Browne. “The sale not only brings jobs and investment to the area, but the proceeds allow the FR-WC EDA to pay down other debt obligations.”

“The County of Warren has had a long-standing partnership with the FR-WC EDA,” said County Administrator Dr. Edwin Daley. “We are incredibly excited about the recent announcement and look forward to having Shahi Food, LLC in the Warren County community for many years.”


About the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority
The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) aims to strengthen our community’s economic growth by fostering a friendly business environment and providing services to create and retain quality jobs in Warren County. The Authority also supports community tourism, recreation, and arts & cultural initiatives to offer a better quality of life for the County’s residents, workers, and visitors. Coordination with the Board of Supervisors, County staff, the Town of Front Royal, and State agencies are integral to promoting economic development and tourism throughout Warren County.

For more information, contact Jeffrey Browne, FR-WC EDA Board of Directors Chair, at 540-635-2182 or jbrowne@wceda.com.

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EDA in Focus

Warren County EDA tackles multi-faceted August meeting Action Agenda

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The Front Royal Warren County EDA held its monthly meeting on Friday, August 26, 2022, at 8 a.m. All five Board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present.

The monthly meeting began with the election of officers, which was approved unanimously. The new officers are Chair Jeff Browne, Vice Chair Scott Jenkins, Treasurer James Wolfe,  and Secretary Marjorie Martin.

As part of the Executive update, member Jim Wolfe suggested a future board retreat to discuss updating the Authority’s strategic plan. Jorie Martin provided an overview of an existing insurance policy for the FR-WC EDA office building at 400 Kendrick Lane. The Board approved restructuring the policy to provide appropriate coverage and cost savings on the space.

The Chair provided an update on the lease of Suite C at 400 Kendrick Lane. C-CAP will be occupying the suite for their operations starting September 1st.

Front Royal Virginia

Jeff Browne summarized a meeting he had with Chair of the Front Royal Economic Development Authority (FREDA), Rick Novak, who was in attendance for the meeting. One of the issues discussed that both Chairs agreed on is a joint EDA retreat to have an opportunity to meet each other in a less formal setting. Novak also provided information on the upcoming Festival of Leaves taking place in Downtown Front Royal on Saturday, October 15th.

Treasurer, Jim Wolfe, provided an update on monthly financial statements and the small business loan committee re-establishment.

The Warren County Director of Economic Development, Joe Petty, provided an update on current activities related to prospects, small business loans, annual audits, and marketing.

EDA’s legal counsel presented a by-law revision that would allow electronic meetings as permitted by the Virginia Code; and additional recommendations by the ad hoc committee consisting of Jorie Martin and Greg Harold. Upon review of the revisions, the Board unanimously adopted the revisions.

As part of new business, the Board approved rescheduling the September meeting, which will be held on Monday, September 26, 2022, at 8 a.m. at the Warren County Government Center Caucus Room.

The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss business opportunities, with no new business following the closed session.

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Crime/Court

EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne reacts to July civil litigation results ordering total of over $13.35 million paid to the County Economic Development Authority

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As noted in our lead story on the “Warren Economic Development Authority” (EDA) versus Truc “Curt” Tran and his ITFederal LLC company civil liability case result (See: Jury awards WC EDA $11.9 million-plus in civil compensatory claims against ITFederal and Truc ‘Curt’ Tran), involved players on the plaintiff’s side deferred to current EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne for a reaction, not only to the Tran/ITFederal result, but a month in which four civil liability cases went the EDA’s way. After a day of reflection on this month’s civil liability trials, much of which he watched in the courtroom, often with other EDA board members, this is what Browne told Royal Examiner:

“As part of the Jennifer McDonald lawsuits, the EDA successfully sued six defendants this month in four civil jury trials and was awarded about $13 million in compensatory damages, $400,000 in punitive damages, and $75,000 in damages for statutory conspiracy. There will be additional civil trials in March 2023.

“The EDA’s main responsibility in these lawsuits is to recover assets that rightfully belong to the EDA and ultimately to the residents of Warren County. It’s a work in progress, but I’m pleased with the outcomes. Every defendant was found liable on multiple charges. Every defendant has to pay. A jury found that the EDA Board of Directors with oversight responsibility of Jennifer McDonald wasn’t negligent in retaining her as it took immediate steps after finding solid evidence of her misbehavior.

EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne, left, and former EDA and County Attorney Dan Whitten at a Sept. 2019 EDA meeting. Royal Examiner Photos Roger Bianchini


“But that isn’t the whole story. Members of the EDA Board were present on every day of every trial. We were impressed with the juries and Judge Albertson. Jury members listened attentively, took notes, and showed in their verdicts that they had a command of the facts in each case. Judge Albertson was fair to both sides of each case and did a good job of managing each trial. Prior members of the EDA Board, prior staff EDA members, a former county administrator, and former members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors all stepped up to testify and do their civic duty. We can be proud that our judicial system still works.

“The criminal process moves forward in other venues. In the meantime, some measure of justice is present in the jury verdicts in Warren County this month. For that, we are grateful.”

Coupled with the out-of-court “no-fault” settlement agreement with McDonald for an estimated $9 million in real estate assets, the courts have now ordered the return of $22 million to $23 million in assets to the EDA. At various points in the investigation into alleged embezzlement and misdirection of EDA assets between 2014 and 2018, the total involved amount has been cited from $21 million to $26 million. There have been significant legal fees involved, perhaps $6 million or more. But in the wake of this month’s results, it appears the EDA’s contracted civil counsel from the Sands Anderson law firm of Richmond are earning that money.

Asked for a reaction to the verdict, Tran and his attorney Gregory Melus declined comment. As noted in the above linked story on the verdict, Melus notified the court of his intention to file a motion to overturn the verdict as not supported by the evidence presented at trial, as have the other three involved civil case defense attorneys.

The Sands Anderson legal team that culminated a successful 4-for-4 month of WC EDA civil liability trials ordering the return of a total of over $13.35-million in misdirected EDA assets from six defendants, including two companies named as co-defendants in the Poe and Tran trials. From left, the plaintiff legal team is paralegal Kimberly Paulsrud and attorneys Lee Byrd, Karissa Kaseorg, and Cullen Seltzer.

Click here to see the previous stories.

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Crime/Court

Jury awards WC EDA $11.9 million-plus in civil compensatory claims against ITFederal and Truc ‘Curt’ Tran

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After five hours of deliberation beginning shortly after 9 a.m., at 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, July 28, a Warren County Circuit Court civil case jury awarded the “Warren Economic Development Authority” (aka EDA, WC EDA, FR-WC EDA) a total of $11,919,313.38, plus some interest payments from defendants Truc “Curt” Tran and his ITFederal LLC company. The finding of liability against the defendants related to exchanges of money for Tran and ITFederals’ plan to develop a 30-acre parcel at the 148-acre Royal Phoenix Business Park portion of the former Avtex Superfund site in Front Royal. That seven-person civil case jury also dismissed all counterclaims by co-defendants Tran and ITFederal related to breach of contract and surrounding claims against the EDA.

However, the jury did not find the defendants liable on claims of Conspiracy and Fraud that could have led to significant punitive damages up to $350,000, or as high as triple the compensatory claim of $11.9 million if found guilty of statutory conspiracy indicating malice against the plaintiff. Tran was found liable on claims of Conversion, Unjust Enrichment, and Ultra Vires, the latter actions outside the authority of involved officials. ITFederal was found liable on claims Conversion, Unjust Enrichment, Ultra Vires, and Breach of Contract.

The breakdown of liability of the defendants was $1,499,986 against Tran, plus 3-1/4 years of interest on that amount accumulated since the March 2019 filing of the EDA civil actions against defendants alleged to have worked with former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald between 2014 and 2018 to defraud the EDA out of an estimated $21-million. The $11.9-million claim of compensatory damages against Tran and ITFederal was the largest single portion of the EDA civil liability actions for recovery of lost assets. With approval of a bankruptcy court judge, McDonald settled EDA claims against her in an out-of-court “no-fault” settlement for what was cited as $9 million in real estate assets.

Truc ‘Curt’ Tran was not smiling after Thursday’s jury verdict finding him personally liable for $1.49-million and his ITFederal company liable for another $10.4-million surrounding the EDA’s $10-million loan for the aborted Avtex 30-acre, Lot 6 ‘Brownfield’ redevelopment project. Testimony during the four-day trial indicated suspicions began compounding about then EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s, below, financial transactions following publication of a February 2018 Royal Examiner story on alleged slot machine winnings claimed to have provided the cash for a number of her personal real estate transactions.


As noted at the time of publication a week later: January 2018 Royal Examiner file photo of Jennifer McDonald in her EDA office displaying tax receipts she said indicated winnings at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino. Coincidentally, the blue star on her chair is the logo of her favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys from whom the real estate LLC ‘DaBoyz’ name was taken.

From testimony over four days of trial in the Tran/ITFederal liability case that $1.499-million finding against Tran related to EDA payments made to Tran under the pretense it was front money that would be reimbursed to the EDA by a $1.5 million Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) grant that was never acquired, or even applied for.

The finding of liability for $10,419,327.38 against ITFederal revolved around the $8,419,327.38 balance of a $10-million loan/promissory note the EDA gave the company to begin development of the ITFederal parcel behind the EDA offices in the old Avtex Administration building off Kendrick Lane. As noted in previous stories (see LINKS at end of story) on testimony and evidence presented during the trial, ITFederal was presented to the EDA Board of Directors in 2015-16 by then Sixth District Congressman Robert Goodlatte as not really needing the loan. Past EDA board members Greg Drescher and Ron Llewellyn testified that Goodlatte suggested the loan as a public relations move to illustrate Virginia’s positive work with the private sector to redevelop a former federal Superfund “brownfield” site.

Consequently, despite the written-in 30-year payback loan term, EDA officials believed it was actually being done as a short-term public relations effort, and would be paid back in a matter of months when what they believed was an existing $140-million ITFederal contract with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) kicked in. A McDonald representation to her board that Tran would become an “anonymous donor” of $8-million to a proposed Criminal Justice Academy project then being worked on by the EDA, was seen as the start of that early repayment, the former EDA board members testified.

It appears this civil case jury, as three before it this month, have rejected a defense theory of the case asserting that the defendants were unwitting victims of McDonald’s alleged lies concerning the movement of EDA assets, just as the EDA was victimized. Plaintiff attorneys from the Sands Anderson law firm of Richmond, Va., countered those arguments by asking the jury to “follow the money” to see who benefited from the misinformation they allege McDonald was giving the EDA board, as well as EDA auditors.

During the previous morning session on Wednesday, the two sides presented their final witnesses: for the defense Mark Viola, proprietor of Viola Engineering, who did geo-technical work for Tran on the ITFederal site regarding construction delays related to underground discoveries of old utility piping and substances; and in plaintiff rebuttal to some of the previous day’s defense assertions, former County and EDA attorney Dan Whitten.

Late Wednesday, the court heard motions from both sides to strike the opposition claims against their clients. After listening to extensive arguments from both sides, Judge Albertson denied all motions to strike claims by either side, preferring as he has reviewing similar motions in earlier EDA civil liability cases this month, to allow the jury to make the decision on the substance of each sides’ claims against the other. After adjourning to dinner of pizza ordered to the courthouse for them around 7 p.m., the jury returned at 7:25 p.m. to say they preferred to go home and begin deliberations Thursday morning, which Judge Albertson agreed to.

Early Wednesday evening the EDA vs. Tran/ITFederal civil case jury told the court they preferred to begin deliberations the next morning, rather than into the evening hours that night.

As the three previous defense attorneys have following findings in the EDA’s favor this month, Tran/ITFederal counsel Gregory Melus notified the court he would file a motion to overturn the jury verdict. Those motions appear based on a defense contention evidence produced at trial was inadequate to justify conviction. A 30/30/10 day filing and response time schedule was set, though plaintiff counsel indicated if Melus needed additional time due to scheduling conflicts, that would not be a problem.

With motions to overturn on the table, counsel for both sides declined comment following Thursday’s verdict. Current EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne, who observed much of the trial along with board members Jim Wolfe, Scott Jenkins, and Greg Harold, indicated that after speaking with counsel and some consideration he might have a response for the media shortly. See that EDA response in related story posted when available.

Click here to see the previous stories.

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I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

National Media Services

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

St. Luke Community Clinic

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
52°
Cloudy
7:12 am6:49 pm EDT
Feels like: 52°F
Wind: 2mph WNW
Humidity: 79%
Pressure: 29.97"Hg
UV index: 0
ThuFriSat
75/50°F
73/41°F
57/36°F

Upcoming Events

Oct
5
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 5 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Oct
8
Sat
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Oct
9
Sun
10:30 am Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 9 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 9 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 9 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Oct
10
Mon
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 10 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 10 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
Oct
11
Tue
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
Oct
12
Wed
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 12 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]