May 20, 2024

FRONT ROYAL – Questions about the EDA audit and what it reveals are swirling around Front Royal and Warren County , and the enormous increase in county taxpayer dollars—from $260,000 to $760,000—allotted to fund that ongoing investigation has raised more questions, thus far questions without answers. 

Royal Examiner has obtained documents that reveal information that has been kept from the public—and perhaps—from Town of Front Royal officials.  

A Nov. 19, 2015 email from then-County and-EDA Attorney Blair Mitchell to EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and Lucy Beaty, a title underwriter at TLC Settlements, LLC, reveals new information, as Mitchell refers to the possibility that things “got a little confused because of Curt Tran’s changing of things and because of the added $10,000,000 loan that Congressman Goodlatte asked for.”  

Mitchell writes to Beaty and McDonald that “First Bank and Trust has a question about the $410,000,000 loan.  They have not seen a deed of trust on record to secure the loan by real estate. So did ITFederal sign a deed of trust on the 410 million?” 

The email continued, “Did it not get recorded?” Mitchell asks, adding, “Was the 410 million just unsecured because we expect Curt to repay it from his other investor and financing?” 

County Attorney Dan Whitten, who has somehow sidestepped intense scrutiny about conflict of interest for representing both the EDA and the interests of Warren County and its citizens stated via email Thursday, “In Blair’s email, I think he meant to say $10 million and not $410 million. There was not a deed of trust on the $10 million loan that was given to IT Federal by the EDA.” 

One might note that if the caps bar is not hit while making a dollar sign, the number 4 appears in its place – lending credence to Whitten’s theory of a then-EDA Attorney Mitchell typo adding $400 million to the referenced loan amount. 

Mitchell did not respond to voice mail left on his Fredericksburg home phone Wednesday evening.   

Regarding questions posed to him Wednesday morning at the Front Royal-Warren County EDA office about when the EDA  first suspected criminal activity, Whitten stated “early September.”  He then stated that the board then sought an auditor to examine EDA books to determine if criminal activity had, in fact, occurred.  When pressed for a date that criminal activity was reported to state or federal officials—which the EDA would be required by law to do—Whitten stated that those dates were “privileged information. “ 

However, later Wednesday, Whitten emailed  this reporter to clarify his earlier statement, writing, “The EDA Board had suspicions of misconduct in early September 2018, and on September 14, 2018, the EDA Board, through legal counsel, engaged Cherry Bekaert for internal review discovery services. It was not until Cherry Bekaert found clear evidence of criminal activity that the EDA had clear suspicion of criminal activity. At such point, the EDA, through outside consultants, did notify the Department of Justice. The exact date of such notification will remain confidential.” 

Regarding an August 23, 2018 meeting between Town of Front Royal officials and EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher, Executive Director McDonald and Whitten as EDA attorney, Whitten said that McDonald “admitted she overbilled the town by $291k, which is not evidence of criminal conduct. We needed to further investigate.” 

Perhaps coincidentally, following an EDA board closed session the following day (Aug. 24, 2018) Drescher announced he would step down as board chairman. He cited time conflicts with his “day job” as superintendent of Warren County Public Schools. And with the writing on the wall about coming explorations of EDA finances, Drescher might have been right on the money with that prediction.

SEE RELATED STORY:  

Drescher steps down as EDA board chairman

Of the delay between suspicions and evidence of wrongdoing, Whitten stated that, “after a presentation from our consultant which showed criminal conduct, we gave permission to the consultant to report to authorities. 

Regarding the new building for the Skyline Regional Justice Academy, which Truc “Curt” Tran recently claimed he had been considering funding, but never actually agreed to do, there is secrecy surrounding that as well.  According to a document obtained by Royal Examiner, which was emailed from Dan Whitten’s account on Nov. 28, 2018 to undisclosed recipients, Tran was the investor slated to build the new academy, though he advised the EDA not to disclose that fact to the public.  

Tran could not be reached Thursday  for comment.   

 

 

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