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Ware enters pleas to embezzlement charges

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By John Barnhart

    Tony Ware, a former Bedford County District 5 Supervisor, pleaded no contest Tuesday  in Bedford County Circuit Court to seven embezzlement charges and seven money laundering charges.
     The charges stem from his handling of a fundraiser, his time as treasurer of the Big Island Volunteer Fire Department and his work as power of attorney for a county resident.
    According to John Alexander, Botetourt County deputy commonwealth’s attorney, an auditor at Bank of the James discovered irregularities in the Satterfield Childrens’ Fund, a non-profit account.
    A benefit had been held at Sedalia Center for the family of a woman who had died after an aggressive illness. The fundraiser,  held  in   May,   2010, raised $15,750 and Ware took $11,500 out of the account. In March, 2011, he borrowed money from a friend to replace it. Alexander said that $2,400 of the money still remains unaccounted for.  He said that Ware told investigators he used the money for his daughter’s education expenses. Alexander said that there is no evidence his daughter knew about that.
    Alexander said, independent of this, the Big Island Volunteer Fire Department became suspicious after discovering that its tax exempt status had lapsed because tax returns had not been filed for a number of years. Ware had been the fire department’s treasurer for more than 20 years. An investigation showed that Ware transfered $3,000 from the fire department’s account to his own in November, 2010. The fire department account was set up so that it only took one signature — Ware’s — to write checks or transfer money. Alexander said that the fire department’s financial records were so badly kept that it’s not possible to tell if Ware had taken money prior to that.
    Other charges rose from Ware’s service as power of attorney for Hattie Routon from 2005-2007. Alexander said that, while Routon was alive, Ware wrote $64,000 in checks to himself. After her death, he took $104,000 from her estate.
    According to Alexander, one act Ware did that aroused suspicion was that he sold Routon’s house for $89,000 and deposited the money in a separate account which he set up for that purpose. However, he listed the value as $117,000 in Routon’s estate. Alexander said that this was an effort to make the estate appear smaller than it really was.
    The no contest pleas were the result of a plea deal in which 13 other felony charges of embezzlement and money laundering were dropped. This gives the Commonwealth the option of prosecuting these at a later date although Alexander said that won’t happen as this was done as part of the plea deal.
    Alexander said that convicting Ware on 12 of the total 25 charges serves the Commonwealth’s interests because the convictions carry a combined maximum sentence of more than 100 years.
    Ware is scheduled for sentencing on April 8 at 9 a.m. Alexander said that he has not decided what sort of sentence he will ask for. He said that, as part of the plea deal, Ware has agreed to pay $295,000 in restitution.
    Ware remains free on bond. Judge James Updike, at the request of Ware’s attorney, agreed to allow Ware to travel outside the Commonwealth to visit his daughter and brother. Ware, who is 66, will turn 67 shortly.