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July 30, 2014 Published in Courts & Crime, Top Stories

Former Virginia ABC Employee Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement Charges

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A former employee of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing over $239,000 in funds that were intended for educational programs to combat underage drinking.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Mark R. Herring, Attorney General of Virginia; and Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, made the announcement after the guilty plea was accepted by U.S. District Court Judge John A. Gibney.

Steven Hammond, Jr., 29, of Richmond, Virginia, pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with theft from a program receiving federal funds.  Hammond faces a maximum of ten years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 14, 2015.

“Hammond embezzled money that was intended to help save lives and improve public safety by combatting underage drinking,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “I commend our partners in state and federal law enforcement for their cooperative efforts to unravel this fraud and hold the defendant accountable.”

“This is a simple case of greed by someone who abused the public trust for his own benefit,” said Attorney General Mark Herring.  “Cooperation between state and federal partners was key to resolving this case, as it so often is.  The public should be reassured that the scam was detected, shut down, and the person responsible is being held accountable.  We will not allow people like this to defraud taxpayers and undermine the public’s confidence in our hardworking public servants.”

According to court documents, Hammond used his position as education coordinator at ABC to divert to himself funds that were intended to combat underage drinking through enforcement and education programs and conferences.   Beginning as early as 2009, Hammond began defrauding ABC by having the department write checks of less than $5,000 to various acquaintances he claimed would operate an educational program.  The acquaintances would then cash the checks on Hammond’s behalf, usually in exchange for a small return.  The investigation revealed Hammond stole more than $239,000 in funds that were intended for the programs to combat underage drinking.

When an internal ABC audit in the spring of 2013 discovered Hammond’s scheme, he was placed on leave and additional financial controls were put into place.  The case was initially investigated by the Virginia State Police and The Virginia Office of Attorney General, which has authority to prosecute crimes involving the handling of funds by a state agency or the theft of state property.  Because the embezzled funds also involved federal grants, the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the investigation.

This case was investigated by the FBI, Virginia State Police and Office of Attorney General.  Michael Jagels, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and Virginia Assistant Attorney General, is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

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