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February 27, 2017

Guilty of embezzlement, McCann avoids prison

Margaret McCann must repay more than $8,000 embezzled from the Partnership for Warrenton Foundation, do 300 hours of community service and remain on probation for three years.
Not everyone who stands before the court takes accountability for their actions. . . . Ms. McCann has done just that.
— Defense attorney T. Brooke Howard II
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The former Partnership for Warrenton Foundation chairman will serve no time in jail for embezzling at least $8,802 from the nonprofit organization.

After a 35-minute hearing Monday afternoon, Fauquier Circuit Court Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. sentenced Margaret Ladson McCann to 16 years in jail and suspended all of that time.

But, Judge Whisenant ordered Ms. McCann, 47, to make restitution and placed her under three years of supervised probation.

She also must perform 300 hours of community service, picking up roadside trash under the supervision of Fauquier’s Office of Adult Court Services.

A conviction for felony embezzlement — of $200 or more — in Virginia carries a potential prison sentence of one to 20 years and a fine of up to $2,500.

Apologizing to the court for her actions, Ms. McCann said: “I had nothing but the best of intentions” in volunteering for the foundation.

To the detriment of her personal life, “I gave to a fault” to the organization, she said.

Ms. McCann seemed to attribute her actions to a “learning disability” that caused her to make “impulsive decisions.”

Neglecting herself, she suffered a “major breakdown,” Ms. McCann said.

Partnership board Chairman Carter Nevill testified Monday afternoon that Ms. McCann’s actions put the foundation in a “precarious” financial situation.

“What was taken was significant,” said Mr. Nevill, estimating that Ms. McCann ultimately stole more than $16,000 from the foundation.

The “negative press” resulted in a loss of public “trust,” he told Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey E. Cook.

Because of that, “the ability to raise funds has been severely damaged,” Mr. Nevill said. “There’s doubt, and people are reluctant to make that commitment again.”

The organization receives $20,000 a year from Warrenton. The town previously provided $30,000 annually and county government, almost $10,000.

Largely because of the scandal, the board of supervisors stopped funding the partnership last year, Mr. Nevill said.

The experience left the foundation “stained and smeared,” Mr. Nevill said.

As a result, the foundation will attempt to rebuild itself and may change its name to “Experience Old Town Warrenton.”

Defense lawyer T. Brooke Howard II of Warrenton briefly questioned Mr. Nevill.

Ms. McCann served as chairman of the partnership’s all-volunteer board from 2013 through 2015.

Mr. Howard’s suggestions to the contrary, Ms. McCann volunteered no more time in that position than any other board member; nor did she improve the foundation’s financial situation, Mr. Nevill said.

Ms. McCann’s mother, Christina P. Mills testified about her daughter’s dire domestic, financial and mental state.

From May through December 2015, her daughter had no job, a difficult marriage and children to support, Ms. Mills said.

During that period, Ms. McCann seemed “delusional” and did “things we knew weren’t realistic . . . . We knew something was wrong,” she said.

After a breakdown in March 2015, Ms. McCann entered a hospital for treatment, Mr. Howard said.

Her daughter has since received counseling, Mrs. Mills said. “She’s getting back to her normal self.”

Ms. McCann did not need to steal thousands of dollars from the partnership to meet her spending habits, which included cell phone and hotel room bills, said Ms. Cook, the prosecutor.

She could have asked her parents, friends or even the partnership to assist her, the prosecutor said.

“This is the time (for Ms. McCann) to take responsibility” for her actions, Ms. Cook said,

Ms. McCann pleaded guilty Monday, Nov. 28, to stealing from the organization.

A Fauquier County Circuit Court grand jury in July indicted Ms. McCann on 10 counts of felony embezzlement. Eight of those counts involved the nonprofit group devoted to promoting and preserving downtown Warrenton.

Ms. McCann pleaded guilty to four of those counts. Fauquier Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker last fall dismissed the remaining charges related to the partnership.

Ms. McCann also faced two embezzlement charges involving Alliance Property Management LLC of Warrenton.

Working as Alliance’s bookkeeper, Ms. McCann allegedly took $1,750 in cash from the company in 2014.

She accepted $875 in cash for rent from a residential tenant on Aug. 4 and again on Nov. 17, 2014, but kept the money, according to a criminal complaint filed in March.

Because Alliance apparently settled the matter, Judge Parker dismissed both Alliance Property counts against her.

Ms. McCann used the foundation’s funds to pay for rent, cell phone use, a moving company’s service and a hotel room at a Four Points Sheraton.

> “Stipulation of facts” at bottom of story

While the bylaws called for her term to end last June, the organization’s executive director had resigned last February, and Ms. McCann took on many of the organization’s day-to-day duties as the paid position remained vacant. The board kept Ms. McCann as its chairman.

Based on Alliance Property Management’s criminal complaint, Warrenton Police Detective Tim Carter spoke with Ms. McCann on Jan. 15, 2016, about allegations that she took $875 in cash for rent from a residential tenant on two occasions in 2014.

Ms. McCann told Detective Carter she “was having money trouble and had used a check from the Partnership for Warrenton Foundation to pay her rent,” according to a court document.

Detective Carter later spoke with Ms. McCann’s former landlord, who said she rented a home from him in October 2015 and paid her rent with a $3,726 cashier’s check drawn from the partnership’s bank account.

The landlord questioned that check.

Ms. McCann told the landlord that “she worked for the Partnership and they owed her some money and she had permission to use the account” to cover her rent, according to a court document.

The landlord evicted Ms. McCann in December 2015, after she failed to pay rent.

Mr. Nevill heard about the Alliance Property complaint in late January 2016..

He “immediately” contacted Ms. McCann about the “rumors,” said Mr. Nevill in an interview after Ms. McCann’s November guilty plea.

“ ‘Don’t worry about it’,” he recalled Ms. McCann telling him. “ ‘It’s a misunderstanding.’ It’s not what we were lead to believe . . . (that) it’d been taken care off. She brushed it off.”

The partnership initially accepted her version. Given her devotion to the organization, the board really had no reason to believe otherwise, Mr. Nevill suggested.

Ms. McCann received no salary from the partnership.

But, the board grew “suspicious” when Ms. McCann repeatedly cancelled meetings and basically ignored requests for financial statements, Mr. Nevill said.

The partnership since has adopted measures to ensure greater accountability, Mr. Nevill said. Monthly financial statements go to the partnership board and the town council.

Ms. McCann has worked for several businesses in Fauquier.

In 2013, she started her own firm, Simply Social 101, to provide online marketing services. The Fauquier County Economic Development Department in 2014 awarded her a $2,000 technology grant to buy equipment for that business.

The Greater Warrenton Chamber of Commerce gave her an “Excellence in Education Leadership” award in January 2014.

“Unfortunately, due to some intensive mental health issues and stress during the time period in question, (Ms. McCann) made some very poor choices,” Mr. Howard said in a statement after Monday’s sentencing. “In doing so, she let down the people, organization and the town she cares so deeply for.

“Not everyone who stands before the court takes accountability for their actions. . . . Ms. McCann has done just that.”

McCann Stipulation of Facts by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Citizen Voice · March 6, 2017 at 4:28 pm
Ms. McCann ultimately stole more than $16,000 from the Foundation - not merely the $8,000 + she is required to pay back for restitution. and the additional money from the 2nd business. And how did someone so cash-strapped come to pay for the service of the most expensive criminal defense attorney in the area - Brooke Howard? While it is really sad for her family that these decisions came down on them, but seemingly an unbalanced application of the punishment for a criminal conviction. and shame on the Foundation for not exercising the prudent oversight over the Foundation treasury as they should have done.
TooTrue · March 2, 2017 at 10:54 am
The Partnership for Warrenton Foundation was a fine organization back when Mr. Tiffany and Anne Marie Walsh were involved. Over the decades it has lost the leadership needed to be viable. This woman is the lowest point in the organization's history, though people like Neville were not watching her. What a shame to see such changes. She got lucky and so did he lawyers helping her.
BJ · March 1, 2017 at 9:09 am
Who paid for her lawyer? We all know their retainers are high. How will she make restitution when higher paying positions will not hire her? Working at the car wash doesn't pay that much. Have serious doubt that the Partnership for Warrenton Foundation will see a penny returned of the embezzled funds unless her family or friends pay it.
TAdams · February 28, 2017 at 9:42 pm
She should have been locked up for at least half her sentence, then placed on supervised probation like anyone else. I hope she at least keeps her felony conviction, this should help keep her out of any trust organizations or employment.
Tell It Like It Is · February 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm
Yeap liberal court just slaps first offender white collar criminals on the hand and just hopes they learn their lesson. Mean while the guilty laugh it off and plot their next move to screw someone, some business or non-profit.
And victims, yeah what about the victims rights?

TooTrue · February 28, 2017 at 4:30 pm
Citizen Observer is right again. Did the Gold Cup organization ever lose any money as well? The young defense attorney got a huge break with his case as well.
citizen observer · February 28, 2017 at 4:27 pm
Pretty sad these slimeballs embezzling money from non profits get to walk away with no incarceration. No wonder it seems to be a growing problem in Fauquier. Crime pays when judges have light hands. She'll probably get caught 2 or 3 more times before she does time.
Traffic · February 28, 2017 at 3:48 pm
Sounds like she's almost dangerous in the fact that she seems like she'll do this again(if you read her past) Then, seems like she blames it on "mental issues". I guess she gets stupid, disillusion, etc. when she's caught or about to be caught. Looks like she gravitates to positions in jobs where she can take advantage and use them for her own devices. A book keeping job? She's not stupid. Maybe a little jail time would have done her good. Or at least besides the restitution a large fine. Not sure if this will stop her from doing it again.
Tell It Like It Is · February 28, 2017 at 12:32 pm
Not sending these "white collar" felonious criminals to jail for at least a period of not less than several (6) months is merely a slap on the hand an invitation that they can go elsewhere and repeat, and basically a slap in the face to law abiding citizens everywhere by the judicial system.
If this were someone else, white male even or another ethnicity I too would be willing bet on a different out come. What is it with our courts that think that this type criminal are due "any" special consideration, I have no clue. Should have locked her up.
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