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The embezzlement charge filed against the former director of Bedford Main Street has been dismissed.
Bedford County General District Court Judge Harold Black issued his ruling Friday, stating that the charge against 46-year-old Daniel A. Plattus was dismissed, denying the attempt to have the charge certified to the grand jury.
The ruling is a result of a May 14 preliminary hearing held in General District Court in which Judge Black had taken the case under advisement, stating he would rule within three weeks. At that time he had called the case against Plattus “an awkward embezzlement” charge.
In his ruling Friday, Judge Black stated that in order to establish the crime of embezzlement, “the Commonwealth must prove that the accused wrongfully appropriated to his or her own use or benefit, with the intent to deprive the owner, thereof, the property entrusted or delivered to the accused. … proof of misappropriation, standing alone, is insufficient to prove embezzlement.”
Judge Black went on to state that the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing was sufficient for him to find probable cause that Plattus had “wrongfully appropriated to his own use Bedford Main Street's credit card” but that the evidence presented “fails to establish probable cause that he did so with the requisite fraudulent intent.”
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Wheelock said investigation of the case continues, and that the Commonwealth still could consider seeking a direct indictment against Plattus.
At the preliminary hearing last month, Wheelock moved that the original charge of credit card fraud be amended to felony embezzlement, based upon the issue that Plattus was not alleged to have stolen the card or its numbers. Wheelock argued that the charge was more accurately reflected in an embezzlement charge because Plattus allegedly used a line of credit of Bedford Main Street for his own personal use.
At that hearing Rachael Ellis, a former business partner with Plattus at the Bedford General Store, testified she discovered that Plattus had made a $750 charge on a Bedford Main Street credit card.
That credit card charge was allegedly made in May 2011; Ellis claimed she found the charge this past February after becoming a member of the Main Street Board. She had told authorities she was concerned Bedford Main Street funds had been misused.
According to authorities, the Visa credit card had originally been taken out for Bedford Main Street in 1998, but current board members testified they were unaware the card existed, adding that they weren't aware of a policy from the board on use of that card.
Mark Arthur, the attorney representing Plattus, argued that Plattus had not embezzled funds from Bedford Main Street since the organization was not out any funds. Plattus, who resigned from his position as director with Bedford Main Street in February, has since paid the credit card bill off. “The organization is not out anything,” Arthur told Judge Black. “There is no transfer of funds from Bedford Main Street. My client paid everything off. They're not out any money.”
Wheelock had argued that Plattus' actions constituted embezzlement because he accessed a line of credit from the Main Street organization for his personal use.