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A six month investigation by the Virginia State Police has resulted in the arrest of a former member of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors.
The investigation by the VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigation resulted in the indictment and arrest of Earl Anthony (Tony) Ware of Big Island in Bedford County on June 7.
Ware has been arrested on seven counts of embezzlement and seven counts of money laundering. The charges stemmed from Ware’s connection to the Big Island Fire Department and the estate of Hattie Routon.
According to a statement released by the Big Island Volunteer Fire Company, officers in the department began to notice financial discrepancies in late fall 2010. “As a result of internally looking over these discrepancies the department contacted the Virginia State Police for an investigation, and contracted a private attorney to look over our interests,” the Fire Company stated in its release.
The issue has led to changes in how finances are handled in the department.
“Since this time the members of the department have drastically changed our financial protocols. We feel that these steps will prohibit the potential for this type of incident from re-occurring,” the Fire Company’s release stated.
“We would like for the communities we serve to know that we are still in service, just as we have been since 1951. The department is financially sound, and all current departmental financial issues have either been or are nearly rectified.”
According to the department, Ware was not re-elected as the treasurer of the company in December 2010 and removed as a member for an unrelated cause in early 2012. He had been an active member since 1978.
The Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has been appointed as the special prosecutor in the case.
Botetourt County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney John Alexander said two of the charges against Ware pertain to Ware’s work with the Big Island Fire Company’s finances, four charges are in connection with a benefit held for children whose mother had died in which some funds came up missing and the rest were in connection with his service as co-executor of the estate. Alexander said the embezzlement charges stem from Ware allegedly taking the money while the money laundering charges related to allegedly changing the status of that money.
The Big Island Fire Company originally contacted the State Police and Bedford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz asked that a special prosecutor be appointed in the case, he said. Alexander said once the investigation into the Fire Company’s finances began, the other allegations of improprieties with funds came to light.
Alexander said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be filed.
A search warrant was filed on March 29 in connection with the bank account of Hattie B. Routon at First Citizens Bank in Bedford. Bank statements, deposit transaction history and documents, canceled checks and signature cards on file for the accounts were being sought.
The VSP special agent filing the search warrant stated, as probable cause for the search warrant, that a co-executor of Routon’s estate reported she had “discovered suspicious large discrepancies in the amount of Ms. Routon’s bank account at the time of her death and what was transferred to the estate account after her death.” The warrant stated that there were allegedly large withdrawals by Ware, also a co-executor of the estate, “for unauthorized and unexplained expenditures as he performed his duties as Power-of-Attorney for Ms. Routon.”
Ware is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on June 28 at 9 a.m.
The investigation has been ongoing since December 2011. Ware was being held last week, following his arrest, in the Bedford County Jail in lieu of a $ 20,000 bond.