Recent civil litigation filed by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority states that the authority’s former director Jennifer McDonald stole town, county and EDA money to pay off over $50,000 in personal credit card bills.
The alleged embezzlement centers around the Afton Inn renovation project that the EDA announced in April 2018. Plans call for a $2.5 million overhaul of the long-vacant building that the authority owns at the corner of E. Main Street and North Royal Avenue.
While renovations are ongoing, the EDA will remain the owner of the Afton Inn. When it is done, the building will be turned over to developer 2 East Main LLC.
The filing states that renovations were supposed to be paid for through a loan obtained by the EDA with all construction funded by the developer. The filing explains this arrangement by stating that “invoices were submitted by 2 East Main and reviewed by the Warren EDA and then submitted by the Warren EDA to the loan provider.” The filing adds that McDonald was “the only person reviewing and submitting invoices and payments” for the EDA.
The filing adds that the EDA, however, did not obtain a loan for the project and payments were made from the EDA’s existing credit lines with First Bank & Trust and United Bank that were reserved for town and county projects, a fact that McDonald never revealed to the board, banks, county or town.
The filing states that three invoices for $17,563, $13,562 and $6,539 were doctored by McDonald using prior invoices from 2 East Main LLC with alterations that said “make check directly to Sears.” It adds that McDonald had a Sears credit card on which a $17,863 payment was made during the same billing cycle in which the invoices were submitted and paid.
The filing states that another similar invoice for $14,250 “was doctored” with instructions stating that the check should be made payable to Chase. It adds that “McDonald carried a balance on a Chase credit card or other credit facility that was paid during the same billing cycle” in which the “doctored invoices” were submitted and paid.
Interim EDA Director John Anzivino said on March 11 that the EDA is working with the developer to secure “appropriate financing.”
“There were some additional steps that needed to be taken in regard to getting appropriate financing in place and they were not taken. So we are taking them now,” he said.