FRONT ROYAL — The 12 felony indictments against Jennifer McDonald, former executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, are sealed due to them being handed up by a special grand jury that operates in secret.
The sparse details in the indictments include only the date of the alleged offenses and the crime with which she has been charged. Those include felony counts of embezzlement and obtaining money by false pretenses ranging from September 2014 to November 2018.
The dates of her alleged offenses, however, line up with certain allegations outlined in a report by Cherry Bekaert, a firm hired to examine the EDA’s finances during her tenure.
For example, McDonald was charged by the special grand jury on a felony count of embezzling $200 or more from the EDA “on or about November 20, 2018.”
According to Cherry Bekaert’s report, “on or about” Nov. 21, 2018, McDonald requested a $10,000 wire draw from a First Bank and Trust credit line reserved for town and county use with instructions stating that the money was for “the Afton Inn Attorney” and “to send the payment to Berlik Law, LLC.”
Berlik Law is the firm representing McDonald in civil defamation cases and as a defendant in a $17.6 million embezzlement and misappropriation civil lawsuit filed by the EDA against her and eight other defendants.
One of the embezzlement indictments states that the offense occurred “on or about September 20, 2016.” According to Cherry Bekaert’s report, it was on Sept. 20 that “McDonald appears to have embezzled” $2 million to purchase properties through her DaBoyz LLC on Buck Mountain Road.
Four other indictments state that McDonald committed embezzlement and obtained money by false pretenses “on or about April 11, 2017” and “on or about April 27, 2017.” According to Cherry Bekaert’s report, McDonald “appears to have embezzled” about $1 million to purchase a Happy Creek Road property on April 11. The report adds that McDonald is suspected of embezzling about $554,527 to have purchased a Rileyville Road property.
During a Tuesday bond hearing for Michelle “Missy” Henry, the EDA’s former administrative assistant who was indicted and arrested Monday on two felony counts of embezzlement, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Layton noted that her charges “correspond” with two of McDonald’s.
The only time Henry’s name is significantly mentioned in Cherry Bekaert’s report relates to alleged embezzlement at the B&G Goods store in which she and McDonald are suspected of selling the store’s inventory for their personal benefit.
Two indictments against McDonald are a felony count of embezzlement that occurred “on or between September 1, 2014 through December 30, 2016” and a felony count of obtaining money by false pretenses “on or between October 1, 2016 through December 30, 2016.” According to Cherry Bekaert’s report, those dates align with the alleged embezzlements at B&G Goods.
During a May hearing, Warren County Circuit Court Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. said that four indictments against McDonald – two counts of embezzlement and two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses – related to credit card transactions. According to the Circuit Court’s website, those four indictments were based on offenses committed May 27, 2018, and June 11, 2018.
The only credit card transactions mentioned in Cherry Bekaert’s report involve allegations that McDonald doctored invoices relating to the Afton Inn renovations in May and June 2018 to make $50,000-plus in payments on her personal credit cards.