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Former Strasburg theater owner charged with fraud

Construction crews work on the Streetscape Enhancement Project in front of the Strasburg Theater on Thursday. Ryan Cornell/Daily (Buy photo)

Richard Perryman (Buy photo)

By Ryan Cornell

STRASBURG -- The previous owner of the Strasburg Home Theater has been charged with obtaining money by false pretense and is scheduled to appear before a grand jury in Fauquier County Circuit Court on Monday.

Richard Anthony Perryman, 28, will plead not guilty, according to James Rivera of the Law Office of James A. Rivera, which is representing Perryman.

Lt. James Hartman of the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office said the victims of the criminal case -- he declined to reveal their names -- made a complaint to the Sheriff's Office in November 2013 alleging that Perryman had fraudulently obtained money from them.

"He [Perryman] met with the victims, wanted to purchase the theater in Strasburg and was ultimately able to gain the funds from the victims," Hartman said.

He said Detective John Payne opened an investigation into the complaint and charged Perryman on Jan. 7.

Last year, Perryman appeared in Shenandoah County Circuit Court in a civil case brought against him by a Fauquier County couple. According to documents obtained from the Shenandoah County Circuit Court, Perryman received a loan of $150,000 from Richard and Natalie Thompson in August 2012.

The documents state that Perryman told them The Fauquier Bank had approved financing for his purchase of the Strasburg Theater, and that there had been a delay in funding the loan.

"Perryman asked the Thompsons to make a short term loan to bridge the gap between the purchase date and when The Fauquier Bank loan would be able to close," states the documents. "Perryman stated the Thompsons' loan, plus costs, would be repaid in 30 days and The Fauquier Bank financing would be enough to satisfy their loan and costs in full."

The documents further state that Perryman never applied for a loan from The Fauquier Bank -- that he had pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzling money from the bank in 2010 -- and had only paid the Thompsons $38,000 by the date of filing.

In December, the Shenandoah County Circuit Court ruled a judgment against Perryman for a sum of $112,426.

Rivera said he wasn't associated with the Shenandoah County Circuit Court case and added that it has nothing to do with the case currently proceeding in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

"Mr. Perryman is charged with obtaining money under false pretense," Rivera said. "It's our position that the loan was obtained legally and the money from the loan was used for its intended purpose."

A few area residents have come forward and said that Perryman still owes them money.

Sam Mumper, owner of the Hi-Neighbor restaurant, said he had catered for the theater's murder mystery dinner theater event last fall and was never paid for it. He said he's still owed hundreds of dollars.

He said Perryman claimed he was waiting for payment from the dinner theater company or that he was experiencing health problems.

"He would disappear for days at a time and people couldn't get a hold of him," Mumper said.

Morgan Kolb, of Strasburg, said she worked for Perryman for two months last summer and never saw a single paycheck.

She said she worked as an assistant and would do inventory and clean and organize the theater.

"We didn't have a schedule," she said. "If he needed me, he would let me know. Sometimes [I would work for] four hours, sometimes 12 hours."

She said another employee she went to high school with was only paid one paycheck for her time.

Winchester-based musician Robbie Limon said he had booked two shows for the theater, but they were both canceled after the theater closed. He said people who purchased tickets for the shows weren't refunded their money, even after multiple attempts were made.

"I questioned him once I found out the theater was up for auction and he told me how he was getting around that," Limon said. "I pressed him for refund information and he assured me there would be a separate account for refunds, though I found out that wasn't true."

One of these shows was a benefit concert scheduled in December for the Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing. The money raised from the tickets would've gone toward remodeling a building into a veteran community center in Strasburg.

Committee founder John Lewandowski said 75 percent of the ticket sales were promised to support the project. He said people who bought the $25 tickets weren't given refunds and the committee didn't see any of it either. He said he had been told that the committee lost nearly $4,000.

Limon said he had kept in close contact with Perryman to ensure everything was running smoothly with his scheduled shows and was led to believe that they would be going on as planned.

"I had high hopes for the theater," he said. "I was excited for it to come back to life and I wanted to give whoever was giving the theater a chance, I wanted to give them a chance."

He described the theater as a hometown hero that the community rallied behind to bring back.

"I know it takes deep pockets to get that place into shape," he said. "He told me about his affiliation to the Kennedy Center. He talked the talk.

"We all wanted it to work. He handed us stories and we all bought it, which is why we are all upset about this. We were lied to."

Rivera said he isn't aware of any of these accusations and he and Perryman are unable to comment on their validity.

"As of right now, we're not making any comments," he said.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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