As noted in the lead to Royal Examiner’s accompanying September 17 Front Royal Town Council work session story on pedestrian-safety plans, This Related Story also discussed a dispute with ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran over footing the bill for a 500-foot stretch of 42-inch stormwater drain pipe across the ITFederal property where the first of three planned buildings is under construction.
The drainage piping begins under Phase One of the West Main Street Extension project that will connect ITFederal’s first structure to Kendrick Lane. Eventually the West Main Extension is designed as the main thru-street of the Royal Phoenix Business Park, connecting from Kendrick Lane on the north to West Main Street at its intersection with Kerfoot Avenue to the south.
According to original town staff estimates the cost of the disputed section of drainage pipe through the ITFed parcel is $120,873. But at the work session Town Engineer Robert Brown said an additional 700-foot channel related to the disputed section could add $50,000 to costs.
Brown presented a series of engineering drawings of the connector road and drainage project to council dated between 2013 and 2018. One dated December 2015, Brown told council was never completed or submitted, but was included in his presentation as the plan Tran is referencing as “proof” the Town agreed to fund the drainage field through his property.
The dispute seems to revolve around changes to the elevation of the first phase of the West Main Street extension road at the east side of the ITFederal construction.
“This is all because the road grade is lower?” Councilman John Connolly asked.
“Yes,” Brown replied. He elaborated that the lowering of the road level was “driven by the developer (Tran’s)” desire to reduce the amount of fill dirt necessary to make his first lot buildable.
Mayor Hollis Tharpe asked if the stormwater runoff flowed from the northeastern corner of the property across the ITFederal lot naturally.
Brown responded, “Yes,” noting the planned drainage line maintained the natural flow of stormwater heading west across the Royal Phoenix property through the ITFederal’s 30-acre parcel.
“You’ve got to either ditch it, trench it, or pipe it,” Mayor Tharpe observed of the stormwater flow across the Royal Phoenix property.
Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt asked if ITFederal principals knew that both their building and the new road were shown on the finally-approved architect’s plan including the drainage piping.
“Yes,” Brown replied.
“That’s all I need to know,” Tewalt concluded.
“But they say they didn’t (know),” Jacob Meza observed of how the impasse on financial responsibility for the stormwater piping evolved.
Town Engineer Brown noted that most of town staff involved in the early road planning and negotiations with Tran were no longer with the Town. But, he added that he could find no evidence of any agreement that the Town pay for a stormwater drainage system across the developer’s property.
“At this point, I guess we’re drawing a line” – if not in the proverbial sand, in the mud – that the Town would not be responsible for an unanticipated additional expense on Royal Phoenix infrastructure development, Town Manager Waltz told the council. Waltz said he wanted council in the conversation as a final decision was determined.
The town manager acknowledged a $650,000 VDOT grant for the West Main Extension project, adding that the original estimated cost of $800,000 had already been exceeded. ITFederal also committed $150,000 to the West Main Extension project after receiving a “get-the-ball-rolling” one dollar special real estate deal on the first Royal Phoenix parcel sold, a 30-acre lot originally priced by the EDA at about $2 million.
ITFederal is the first company recruited to develop at the Royal Phoenix Business Park portion (147 acres) of the former Avtex Superfund site (467 acres). Controversy has swirled around the ITFederal project almost since Sixth District U.S. Congressman Robert Goodlatte made a big splash June 2015 announcement about bringing the first commercial client to the former federal Superfund site.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency released the remediated property for development in September 2014. The local EDA acquired ownership in 1999-2000. And while the property has been marketable from that time, if not earlier – land was not approved for sale until the 2014 release by EPA.
Numbers quoted at the time of the 2015 Goodlatte announcement indicated a $40-million investment that would bring 400 to 600 high-paying tech jobs to the community. The original construction timeframe announced on June 12, 2015, had phase one beginning in the third quarter of 2015 targeting a late 2016 completion date; with buildings two and three operational by the fall of 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Over the intervening years the finger has been pointed in various directions concerning delays – those directions including the state DEQ on environmental permitting; the Town for lag time on finalizing road and other infrastructure plans necessary to finalizing ITFed work plans; Congressman Goodlatte for jumping the gun on announcing the ITFederal deal in the first place; and rightly or wrongly at the end of this blame chain, the developer for delays in utilizing its initial $10-million investment in this community.
That $10-million investment was pushed forward with the help of a bridge loan by the Town of Front Royal, and eventually a loan through First Bank with the endorsement of the town government and the EDA as a co-signer with project approval on the loan.
The initial development plan revealed with Congressman Goodlatte’s 2015 announcement ITFederal was coming to Front Royal was for a 67,000 s.f. mixed-use office complex. That complex was forecast to include 37,000 s.f. of office space; 20,000 s.f. of retail space; and a 10,000-s.f. cloud data center.
What is under construction today as part of phase one is described as a 10,000 s.f. office building – but circumstances change with time, and from some perspectives, any development at the former Superfund site economically dormant for nearly three decades is a great positive for the community.
However, we can’t get agreement on who is going to pay for the infrastructure to get downhill stormwater flow across the Main Street Extension access road and across ITFederal’s 30-acre property.
Not to date myself, but as David Byrne of The Talking Heads once sang, “Same as it ever was; same as it ever was …”
Little civil consequence of more criminal prosecution delays in EDA case
Contacted about the new dates in late 2022 of trials in the now federal prosecutor-handled criminal indictments against former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, current EDA Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne said while it has little, if any, impact on the EDA’s civil litigation seeking recovery of assets, he understands public frustration from continued delays on the criminal side of the EDA financial scandal.
“I don’t believe the delay in the criminal case impacts our civil case. We have no control over the criminal case, but it is frustrating that Warren County residents must wait so long for justice to be served. I understand the reasons for the delay, but it still is frustrating,” Browne told Royal Examiner.
The reason for the delay continues to be, as it has been from the outset for the most part, the volume of evidentiary documentation in the case, as well as the introduction of new attorneys into the legal equation who must absorb the information in that documentation estimated at well over a million pages.
Most recently, federal Judge Elizabeth Dillon granted McDonald’s newest attorney, court-appointed Andrea Harris’s request for a continuance of McDonald’s criminal trials slated for the first week of this month. The federal prosecutor from the Western District of Virginia did not object to the continuance. Consequently, new trial dates between October 11 and November 18, 2022, are now on federal docket. Since the delay came at the request of the defense, speedy trial guidelines will not come into play.
As Royal Examiner previously reported, on August 31 McDonald was re-arrested on a 34-count indictment handed down by the Western District of Virginia Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Harrisonburg.
Of those 34 counts, 16 were for money laundering, 10 for bank fraud, 7 for wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft regarding someone identified as “T.T.” – our best guess representing ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran. The 40-paragraph True Bill elaborating on the charges to a Harrisonburg Grand Jury is dated August 25, and signed by then-Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Bubar. McDonald was once again released on bond.
The charges and outline of the case in support of them echo earlier criminal indictments filed at the state level before the State Special Prosecutor’s Office in Harrisonburg turned the case over to federal authorities in late 2019. The state special prosecutor had dropped the indictments it had filed to avoid speedy trial issues due to the volume of evidentiary material – estimated at 800,000 to over a million pages at the time. Failure to meet speedy trial deadlines could have led to defense motions for dismissal of charges on the criminal side of the EDA financial scandal case.
County Supervisors change November meeting date – stay mum on Closed Session EDA litigation discussion
The only open session action taking by the Warren County Board of Supervisors at a Special Meeting of Tuesday, October 26, was authorization to change the date of a November Supervisors meeting from the 16th to the 18th. That item was a late addition to the agenda made and acted on prior to a scheduled closed session.
The bulk of the 5 p.m. meeting, about an hour-and-a-quarter, was taken up by a Closed/Executive Session to discuss Economic Development Authority litigation. As Royal Examiner readers know, that is an oft-behind closed doors topic over the last two-plus years in the wake of the $26-million to $62 million FR-WC EDA financial scandal that began unravelling in mid-2018. No announcement or action regarding that litigation was offered during the brief open session to adjournment shortly after 6:20 p.m.
As has been previously reported, the EDA financial scandal involves civil and criminal cases, the latter now handled at the federal level by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia headquartered in Harrisonburg. Before criminal indictments were dropped by the Special Prosecutor at the state level due to speedy trial concerns surrounding the mountain of documented evidence, estimated at over a million pages, there were as many as 23 co-defendants alleged as co-conspirators of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. The federal prosecutor launched action on August 31, filing a 34-count indictment against McDonald, including 16 counts of money laundering, 10 for bank fraud, 7 for wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft regarding someone identified as “T.T.” (ITFederal principal Truc Tran perhaps?)
In related civil litigation, McDonald and the EDA reached an agreement in which $9-million-dollars of assets were ruled out of McDonald’s bankruptcy court filing as owed to the EDA, though without any admission of fault by McDonald. As part of that agreement the EDA recently announced assumption of ownership of McDonald Real Estate LLC MoveOn8’s undeveloped 41-acre Happy Creek parcel valued at over a million dollars.
The EDA and Town of Front Royal are also engaged in dueling civil countersuits initiated by the Town, claiming disputed lost assets related to the financial scandal. During the tenure of Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick, other than then-Mayor Eugene Tewalt, the town council chose to ignore EDA offers to sit down in a non-litigious, good faith effort to determine exactly what was owed to the Town related to the alleged misdirected EDA assets involved in Town and County capital improvement and economic development projects financed through the EDA. The Town has since initiated an effort to create its own unilateral Front Royal EDA (FREDA) operating independently of the over half-century-old Town-County EDA, which technically the Town is still a legal, if now silent, partner in.
That independent EDA effort has become a political hot potato in the coming Town Special Election to fill resigned member Jacob Meza’s seat. In recent years the County had fully funded EDA operational costs, with each municipality covering its own debt service related to EDA financing of projects. Independent conservative council candidate Bruce Rappaport has made the unilateral Front Royal EDA a major target of his campaign, citing it as a waste of town taxpayer money and destructive wrench in the cog of Town-County relations.
‘Ghosts of EDA Loans Past’ come back to haunt county supervisors
The most interesting part of Tuesday evening’s Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting was likely behind closed doors after the board adjourned to Closed/Executive Session for a legal-based answer to North River Supervisor Delores Oates question as to what benefit to the County and its taxpayers there was in approval of a Resolution admitting a “moral obligation” to continue to pay the debt service on bank loans made by the EDA during its developing financial scandal, circa 2016 or so. There was one of three loans at issue of particular interest – the $10-million-dollar loan to Truc “Curt” Tran’s ITFederal company poised to jumpstart commercial redevelopment at the 149-acre portion of the former Avtex Superfund site known as the Royal Phoenix Business Park.
Of particular interest, because the “moral obligation” for that loan was initially believed covered by the Town of Front Royal, whose elected officials agreed to provide a $10-million-dollar “bridge loan” requested by then EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald to indicate to First Bank and Trust that “the community” stood behind the loan and proposed project it supported. That request for and Town show of financial support for the ITFed project came despite the fact the company showed virtually no assets other than the three acres at the Royal Phoenix/Avtex site valued at slightly over $2-million-dollars that was “gifted” to the company by the EDA behind closed doors for one dollar.
A clue to what the county supervisors heard over about 15 minutes in Closed Session may have been offered by the board’s action out of it. After some hesitancy in response to the Chair’s call for a motion on the Resolution, Oates’ motion for approval of the “EDA First Bank and Trust Support Agreement”, seconded by Walt Mabe, passed by a unanimous roll call vote. The vote commits the County to continue to absorb those “moral obligation” payments through the Fiscal Year 2021-22 at an estimated cost of $214,000.
In open session, responding to questions about the Resolution in support of the “EDA First Bank and Trust Support Agreement”, County Administrator Ed Daley mentioned consolidation of three loans, including the above-mentioned ITFederal loan (at $9,551,500), as well as a First Bank and Trust Line of Credit ($8,691,600), and a First Bank of Strasburg loan ($3,450,000). Contacted later, Daley cited one condition that would bring the EDA’s payments to the bank on the ITFederal loan in line with what ITFederal pays the EDA monthly at about $42,000. Before the EDA payments fluctuated to more or less than the ITFed payments, sometimes as much as $7,000 a month more.
Despite the commitment to an estimated $214,000 in payments through this fiscal year, the board’s unanimous vote in support of its moral obligation payments likely reflects negative consequences were the County to bail on covering an EDA debt mid-fiscal year. But again, the agreement is only to the end of the current fiscal year, June 30, 2022. What might the future of “moral obligations” related to the “Ghost of EDA Loans Past” bring in FY-2022-23? – Stay tuned for another seasonal episode of “A Front Royal-Warren County EDA Carol”.
Thermal Shelter bathrooms
County Administrator Daley was also prominent in responding to another matter raised by three speakers during Public Comments about things, not on the meeting agenda. That was the elimination of two bathrooms in the Health and Human Services Complex at the old 15th Street middle school utilized by the County and involved churches and civic organizations to house the community’s homeless indoors at night during the winter. Opening that discussion was First Baptist Church Pastor Christy McMillin-Goodwin, followed by Aneita Bryant and Jim Bunce.
That trio said an alternate plan for mobile outdoor restrooms was unadvisable due to security and additional personnel to monitor out-of-building night trips, as well as potential severe weather issues. Noting a replacement plan that would not have new indoor facilities in place in time for this winter’s thermal shelter setup, these speakers wondered how the removal plan had been initiated without notice to those involved in helping the County operate the thermal shelter. Bryant suggested allowing access to the next closest indoor facilities.
In responding, Daley said he had been at point for the County in initiating the bathroom removal due to failing pipes that caused toilet backup issues. He said he had envisioned a much quicker turnaround in replacing the removed indoor facilities in that section of the building than ended up being the case. He promised to work proactively with those involved to see that an adequate alternate overnight option was available when the thermal shelter opens as winter arrives.
Also Tuesday following public hearings, the board unanimously approved three Conditional Use Permit applications, two for short-term tourist rentals and one for a private use campground. Following application summaries by Planning Department Deputy Director Matt Wendling the first two CUP applications, Charles and Lou Ann Dotson’s for the Private Use Campground on their property on Burma Road in the Man-Da-Lay Subdivision; and Jacob W. Lott Jr. and Sandra J. Kiepfer for a short-term tourist rental on their 1.6-acre lot on Little Indian Road in the Blue Mountain Subdivision in Linden went to a vote with no public hearing speakers. Wendling did note that a letter from the chairman of the Blue Mountain Property Owners Association had been received, expressing “no problem” with Lott and Kiepfer’s short-term tourist rental application.
Up last were Nicole and Sean McMinn with a short-term tourist rental permit application for their 2.42-acre property on Sagar Drive in the Highland Estates Subdivision in the Fork District. Again, there were no public speakers after the applicants responded to the board chair’s offer to summarize their request. The D.C.-based couple told the board they had run into little opposition from neighbors, and what opposition there had been from neighbors was not from those closest, but with property over a thousand feet from theirs.
And while there were no public speakers, the McMinns noted a number of letters to the board from supporters of their short-term tourist rental CUP application, which they asked to be read into the meeting record. Board Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi then read nine letters of support, including one with “25 to 30” signatures. Several of the letters, including one from the owner of the Downriver Canoe Company, noted positive impacts on tourism-related businesses from short-term renters. One letter noted, “They come; they spend; they leave”.
The board then made its final unanimous vote of approval on a motion by Archie Fox in whose district the applicant’s property lies, seconded by Walt Mabe.
Following that vote, Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter noted a “Bless you” included in one of the letters read by the clerk that was well-timed to a sneeze by someone present in the government center meeting room.
In fact, facing a future out of the public eye politically – Carter did not file to be on the ballot for reelection to his Happy Creek seat in November – Carter appeared at times Tuesday to be auditioning for Comedy Club spots during his member report and at various other times during the meeting. In fact, his coming local election, Halloween costume advice during his member report led three of his four colleagues to decline to try and “follow that act”.
See all the fun, business, and other public perspectives, including opening Public Comments speaker Michael Williams question as to whether a recent church-sponsored candidates forum in which the moderator was shown prior to the forum to have contributed to one church-associated candidate’s campaign could threaten that church’s tax-exempt status on U.S. Constitutional separation of church and state guidelines, in the County video:
EDA gets McDonald company property as part of settlement agreement
On Wednesday, October 20, Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne verified the EDA’s acquisition of the 41-acre “Happy Creek Road” parcel owned by former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s Moveon8 real estate LLC. Acquisition of the undeveloped property assessed at just over a million dollars according to county court records is part of the $9-million-dollar no-fault settlement agreement reached between the EDA, McDonald, and the Harrisonburg Bankruptcy Court handling McDonald’s 2020 bankruptcy filing. The EDA will now be able to market the property as a developable EDA asset. It is located near the intersection of Happy Creek Road and Leach Run Parkway.
Browne said that in addition to receiving full value on the Happy Creek parcel, the EDA was in line to receive a percentage of the sale price of other McDonald assets distributed through the bankruptcy court proceeding. Exactly how close those percentages might get the EDA to the $9-million-dollar settlement figure remains to be seen. It was not immediately clear as to whether the EDA will have an outright full value claim to any other McDonald-held properties or assets.
McDonald is the central figure in the EDA financial scandal that began unravelling in mid-to-late 2018. She resigned in December 2018 under mounting pressure from her board of directors. She has been accused in civil and criminal court of utilizing her EDA position to misdirect EDA assets to her and others personal benefit. Western District of Virginia federal authorities have taken over the criminal side of the EDA case after a state special prosecutor’s office in Harrisonburg dropped criminal charges against McDonald and as many as 23 co-defendants due to speedy trial concerns as it wrestled with the volume of evidentiary material – estimated at 800,000 to over a million pages at the time. With charges against some defendants originating with the county commonwealth attorney’s office that initially handled the criminal investigation during Brian Madden’s tenure heading the department, failure to meet speedy trial timelines could have led to defense motions for dismissal of criminal charges against the defendants.
On August 31, 2021, federal prosecutors made their initial move, handing down a 34-count indictment against McDonald. Of those 34 counts, 16 were for money laundering, 10 for bank fraud, 7 for wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft regarding someone identified as “T.T.” – ITFederal principal Truc Tran perhaps?
EDA Finance Committee scrutinizes FY-22 Budget proposal, dynamics
Friday morning, July 9, the Finance Committee of the Warren County Economic Development Authority met to discuss the EDA’s Fiscal Year-2022 Budget proposal. In addition to Committee Chairman Jim Wolfe and members Jorie Martin and Tom Patteson, present for the in-person meeting at the EDA’s Kendrick Lane Office were EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne, Executive Director Doug Parsons, Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson, and County Board of Supervisors Chair Cheryl Cullers.
The County Board of Supervisors holds the purse strings for the EDA, as the new EDA board and staff continue to navigate the financial and legal aftermath of the $26-million-dollar-plus financial scandal uncovered during the administrative leadership of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and a previous EDA Board of Directors.
How the financial consequences of that yet-to-be resolved civilly or criminally alleged misuse, embezzlement or fraudulent acquisition of EDA resources continues to impact the retooled EDA was a topic of interest during the committee meeting. As annual debt service revenues from property rentals and loan paybacks versus loan debt service expenses were discussed in a second phase of the budget review, that point was made quite pointedly after a debt service revenue deficit of $704,700 was noted.
“Let’s make this clear for the public,” Committee Chairman Wolfe injected with a glance the media’s way, continuing, “So, there are three (primary) figures on the page … there is the $220,000 General Fund Operating Allocation. And the way to think about it is as a matter of public policy the County says, ‘economic development is a good idea, let’s put some money toward that kind of development’.
“There’s another operating supplement of … $39,200.
“And because of all the debts of prior activities, there’s another roughly $700,000 in unfunded debt payments because of past transactions. Those don’t have anything to do with current economic development or moving forward. That’s trying to clean up after the other ones. – Did I misstate that in any way?” Wolfe concluded with a question for his EDA colleagues.
Rather than a correction, Executive Director Doug Parsons elaborated on Wolfe’s observation with added detail on how the deficit numbers broke down between inherited debt versus that acquired by the new EDA – the short answer being all six of current EDA loans with a total annual debt service of about $1.5 million were inherited and none acquired by the retooled EDA board and staff.
During the committee meeting Parson also pointed to a $658,000 General Fund Cap number plugged in by the county administrator that could be adjusted upwards to help cover that $704,700 debt service shortfall. The shortfall was created by the difference in the $1,556,700 annual debt service of the six inherited EDA loans and the $852,000 of Offsetting annual revenue from the Baugh Drive Warehouse rent ($345,600) and the ITFederal Loan payback ($506,400).
Operations and the Future
In the first phase of discussion it was the Operational Budget under scrutiny as the new EDA board and staff continues to move forward with economic development in the community, while still traversing the legal and civil liability minefield of the financial scandal referenced above. A 28-line-item FY-22 Operational Budget totaling $367,100 was brought to the table.
Major areas of concern discussed included “Marketing” of the community to potential businesses seeking a favorable geographic and social environment; “Maintenance” of EDA properties – variables and potential HVAC costs at Baugh Drive and the EDA office complex were put on the table; “Legal” and “Auditing” fees; “Insurance” including, not only “Property Insurance”, but also “Professional Liability” insurance; the impact of a 2.5% Cost Of Living Act (COLA) increase on staff salaries; and continued efforts on community education to limit and reverse the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly in the county.
Wolfe observed from his experience that marketing was often a first budget line item to be reduced during tight economic times, but added that “it should be the last”. A $10,000 “Marketing” request was reduced to $4,300 by the County Administration. While the importance of advertising was agreed upon, its type and context to achieve maximum positive exposure and result remains an issue the EDA Board has devoted some discussion to recently. How that may translate into a final number submission remains to be seen.
A $10,000 “Maintenance” request was unaltered by the County. However, with looming HVAC maintenance or replacement issues at several locations, the potential need of more than the originally submitted amount was noted.
Legal, Auditing & Insurance variables
Legal fees were listed at $84,000 – pared back from a $96,000 request – and auditor fees at $17,500. It was explained the $17,500 was for one fiscal year’s audit. But the advantage of seeking both the FY-2020 and FY-2021 audits in the coming budget year was broached to catch the EDA up with the County in the auditing process. This past year the EDA went through a lengthy, soon-to-be finalized by the firm of Brown-Edwards, audit of the FY-2018 and FY-2019 budget years when alleged embezzlements and other financial misappropriations were occurring.
Of the coming-year audits beginning with FY-2020, Parsons commented: “They will be drastically more simple than 2018 and 2019 because we were all here” throughout those years’ budget and operational processes.
It was noted that while the EDA must put the FY-2020-and-21 audit services out to bid, due to their experience here through more trying budget cycles it seemed a longshot that Browne-Edwards would not get the call back.
On the insurance front, $10,000 was listed for “Property Insurance” and $400 for “Professionally Liability Insurance”. With the EDA having received a $500,000 “Liability” payoff from current carrier Cincinnati Insurance, the potential of a bidding war to pick up the Warren County EDA’s liability coverage seems slim.
“I’ve been working on this for nine months and nobody will touch us,” Martin told her colleagues of interest from other companies. The advisability of sticking with Cincinnati if possible, but changing local agent Stoneburner-Carter due to proprietor Tony Carter’s current and past seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors, was broached.
I’ll see your $12 million dollars, and raise you another $1.5 million
On October 9, attorneys for ITFederal and its principal Truc “Curt” Tran filed a $13.5 million countersuit in response to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s $21.3 million dollar civil litigation in which Tran and his company are named as two defendants liable for the return of over half of the EDA assets being sought for recovery.
Tran claims “substantial damages and reputational harm” to him and his company “from wrongful and deceitful acts that the Warren EDA – through its former Executive Director, Jennifer McDonald – committed against them”.
Tran also seeks a declaratory judgment that the $10 million dollar bank loan he and ITFederal received through the EDA “is a validly authorized transaction by the EDA” and “is not in default”. Tran notes in his countersuit that he is current on his monthly loan payments of $42,160 on a 30-year payback term beginning in January 2016.
Tran’s civil litigation counter attack on the EDA came five days after the EDA filed an amended complaint, adding detail of alleged fraudulent representations made by and/or on behalf of Tran/ITFederal in enabling his acquisition of the single largest amount of EDA assets being sought for recovery in its embezzlement and financial fraud scandal.
Those assets include the balance of the $10 million bank loan achieved by the EDA on Tran’s behalf in early 2016 and related vendor (minimum of $392,249) and direct payments (minimum of $1.43 million) to the company adding at least another $1.82 million dollars to the ITFederal portion of the EDA lawsuit.
So in claiming he was the one defrauded by the EDA and its former executive director, Tran has upped the EDA ante of about $12 million dollars filed against him by $1.5 million dollars – talk about high stakes gambling.
The amended EDA complaint cites Tran as in default on the $10 million dollar EDA/First Bank & Trust loan despite past admitted renegotiations on its terms.
“To date, ITFederal has not satisfied the Construction Targets for either the $2 Million Deed of Trust or the $10 Million ITFederal Borrower Note,” the Amended EDA complaint states, citing the absence of an occupancy permit at this point.
“On information and belief, little to no proceeds of the ITFederal loan have been applied to the ITFederal Project. On information and belief, Defendant Tran has converted a substantial portion of the proceeds of the ITFederal loan to his personal benefit.”
The EDA’s Amended Complaint notes that on October 4, the day it was filed, “the Warren EDA provided notice of default to ITFederal as required by both the $2 Million Promissory Note and the $10 Million ITFederal Borrower Note,” and adds that it believes ITFederal “cannot cure the default within the time allotted by the $10 Million ITFederal Borrower Note.”
As one can see, the amended EDA litigation and Tran’s countersuit paint distinctly contrasting portraits of what the dueling litigations contend happened in Tran’s acquisition of the estimated $12 million dollars in EDA assets.
The Tran/ITFederal Countersuit contends, “The Warren EDA – through Ms. McDonald, who had apparent, actual and/or implied authority to act on its behalf – materially misled Mr. Tran and ITFederal through both affirmative misrepresentations and concealment.”
However the EDA’s Amended Complaint repeatedly references actions by “Defendant Tran and Defendant McDonald” alleged to have been made in concert, falsely presenting Tran, his company and its potential to the EDA Board of Directors and Town and County officials.
“Defendant Tran and Defendant McDonald represented to the Town, the County and the Warren EDA multiple times that (a) Defendant Tran was a high-net worth individual, (b) he did not need any financial assistance from the Town, County and the Warren EDA to make the ITFederal Project financially viable, (c) ITFederal/VDN Systems had procured a $140 million contract with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to provide information technology services on a long-term basis and (d) Defendant Tran had the endorsement and support of the U.S. Congressional Representative Robert Goodlatte (Rep. Goodlatte) in connection with the ITFederal Project,” the amended EDA lawsuit asserts.
That is followed by eight more paragraphs alleging coordinated efforts by Tran and McDonald to misrepresent the financial and business potential of ITFederal and its CEO to local officials. Among those allegations was that Tran didn’t need the $10 million dollar loan but would accept it at the behest of Rep. Goodlatte, who it has been represented by EDA officials wanted the loan to help attract further redevelopment clients to the Avtex Brownfield site in his Sixth Congressional District; that Tran would actually pay the $10 million loan back in 60 to 90 days; and that federal EB-5 Visa Program financing was coming to the project.
Tran attorneys are sure to point out that those “Defendant Tran and Defendant McDonald represented” assertions most often continue to elaborate “through Defendant McDonald”.
As Royal Examiner observed as the ITFederal scenario was developing from our launch in October 2016 through 2018, the elusive Tran generally let the EDA executive director take the point in responding to questions from municipal officials or the press about his project at the EDA controlled Brownfield site.
Tran’s Countersuit filing asserts that McDonald forged his signature at least twice to give the impression he was the “secret investor” in the Criminal Justice Training Academy Project; and at least one other time to indicate his involvement “related to real estate deals in which he had no involvement”.
The suit also alleges McDonald “falsely misrepresenting” that the EDA had received a State grant for the ITFederal construction project at the Avtex site; and that McDonald misled Tran about the environmental suitability of the Royal Phoenix Business Park site at the former Avtex Superfund site to the point of telling him the soil was “so clean you could eat off it.”
“These fraudulent actions have unnecessarily entangled Mr. Tran and ITFederal in this matter, resulting in the Warren EDA frivolously suing this respectable businessman and his company where they are victims of the Warren EDA’s and its Executive Director’s wrongdoing,” the Tran Countersuit states.
However Tran was singing a different tune to the press during an on-site visit December 20, 2018. During a lengthy EDA board closed session after which it was announced McDonald had resigned by email earlier that day, Tran was asked about the possibility McDonald might be terminated or asked to resign following the closed session.
“I heard about this and it’s blowing my mind. Oh that would be sad. She’s done so much for this area of the county and the town to redevelop, and even me – I was just about to move on and she,” Tran hesitated before adding of the prospect of a turnover at the top of the EDA, “So, so, we have to go do this with the next guy’s ideas or something?”
How things have changed in the wake of several “next guy’s” ideas – one civil suit filing in which Tran and his company have been cited as liable for around $12 million dollars in restitution to the EDA and McDonald somewhere considerably over $3 million; not to mention 28 felony financial criminal indictments against the former EDA executive director Tran once put so much faith into to present his development plans to local officials.