Prosecutor: Former SAAA head planning guilty plea

By Joe Beck

The former chief executive officer of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging is expected to plead guilty Tuesday in Warren County Circuit Court to embezzlement, Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden said Monday.

Madden said he reached an agreement with Cockrell’s defense attorney Friday. Madden refused to say, which, if any one of the four felony embezzlement charges against Cockrell would be dropped as part of the plea agreement.

The agreement requires approval from Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp.

“We’ll present it in court tomorrow and see if the judge agrees and go from there,” Madden said on Monday.

Cockrell’s case was scheduled for a two-day jury trial Monday that was called off after the plea agreement was reached. She pleaded not guilty to all four embezzlement counts in early June.

A grand jury indicted Cockrell on April 1 after a lengthy investigation by the Virginia State Police into her role in a financial scandal that rocked the agency for more than a year and at times threatened its survival.

The indictments list the dates of Cockrell’s alleged offenses as July 8, 2010; Aug. 24, 2010; May 20, 2011 through June 14, 2011 and June 22, 2011 through June 25, 2011.

The board of directors fired Cockrell and two other agency executives in early September 2011 after staff members called attention to dozens of unmailed checks in the agency’s Front Royal headquarters.

Cash flow problems in subsequent months led the agency to cut staff and the pay of remaining employees as bills from lawyers and accountants piled up. Several major fund-raising initiatives were launched, including selling raffle tickets for an SUV used by Cockrell during her tenure as head of the agency.

At one point, the board accepted an offer from staff members to pay 20 percent of their insurance premiums to stabilize the agency’s finances.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com