FRONT ROYAL – Jennifer McDonald, her husband Samuel North and Donald Poe — all who were indicted last week by the special grand jury investigating the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority — were granted bond Monday by Judge Bruce Albertson after spending the weekend in jail.
William Lambert, who was also indicted last week, did not receive bond as he did not have a lawyer.
McDonald, who previously served as the EDA’s executive director, was indicted last week on 14 felony counts that included charges of obtaining money by false pretenses, money laundering and embezzlement.
She now stands charged on 28 felony counts, with the previous 14 indictments including counts of embezzlement and obtaining money by false pretenses. Originally arrested in May, McDonald was held in jail until being granted a $50,000 secured bond in July. For the new charges, she received a $25,000 secured bond.
Being part of the special grand jury’s secretive proceedings, the indictments only provide the alleged crime and date on which it occurred.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Layton said in court, however, that her new indictments relate to “wetland credits,” a purchase with North and deals with Lambert.
He added that all stem from her employment with the EDA and none are related to activity after her December 2018 resignation from the authority.
A report by Cherry Bekaert, the firm that investigated the EDA’s finances, states that McDonald, Poe, Lambert and Michelle Henry – the EDA’s former administrative assistant who has also been indicted by the special grand jury — colluded to purchase the Main Street building that previously housed B&G Goods.
The Cherry Bekaert report also states that McDonald “is suspected of (possibly in collusion with other parties) embezzling approximately” $1.1 million from town and county credit lines for what she represented as the necessary “purchase of necessary wetland credits.”
In arguing for bond, Peter Greenspun, McDonald’s attorney, noted that she is facing a potential 100 years in jail on the previous charges and did not flee.
He added that she has complied with all bond conditions, including seeking employment, which has been difficult due to the case’s publicity. He noted that she turned herself in Friday upon learning of the indictments.
North, who is McDonald’s husband, was indicted on two felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and one felony count of money laundering, which indictment papers state occurred between on or about Aug. 1, 2015, and Aug. 31, 2015.
He was granted a $10,000 secured bond with conditions that he remain in Virginia, maintain employment and have no contact with any co-defendants beside McDonald.
Poe, who was previously indicted on felony counts of embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretenses and perjury, was indicted last week on a felony count of money laundering. After receiving a $20,000 secured bond on the previous charges, he received a $20,000 unsecured bond Monday.
Other mentions of Poe’s name in the Cherry Bekaert report relate to dealings between the EDA and Earth Right-Energy Solar-Commercial LLC, a company of which he is the co-owner.
Those allegations include that the company received money for solar installation work that was not completed and entered into an unauthorized $27 million contract to install solar equipment on local schools.
Both Greenspun and William Ashwell, Poe’s lawyer, noted how their clients are being treated unusually as they have both been booked in jail multiple times.
Ashwell said that the special grand jury handing up two sets of indictments against his client on different dates is “frustrating and unique.”
Greenspun asked that if any more indictments are handed up that a bond hearing be set instead of McDonald having to return to jail.
Albertson replied that he is not the judge overseeing the special grand jury and that is not his decision to make.
Poe is due in circuit court Friday for a preliminary hearing while Lambert is due in court the same day for a bond hearing. McDonald and North are due in circuit court Oct. 15.