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August 20, 2014

Warrenton man allegedly embezzled $3.3 million

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Since 1999, Robin D. Nicholas had served as A&M Supply Corp.’s branch manager at Heritage Hardwoods on Whiting Road east of Marshall. He allegedly began embezzling from the company in 2000.
Photo/Sheriff’s Office
Using a dummy company, fake invoices and several checking accounts, Mr. Nicholas allegedly stole about $250,000 a year.
We intend to prosecute it vigorously. Recent history in this community suggests that we take embezzlement very seriously.
— Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher
Embezzlement Case
• Defendant: Robin Day Nicholas, 50, of 9139 Hyde Lane, Warrenton.

• Charges: 60 felonies, allegedly involving the theft of $3.3 million from October 2000 to April 2014.

• Indicted: Aug. 13 by Fauquier County Circuit Court grand jury for embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretenses, money laundering and making false statements on Virginia income tax returns.

• Victim: Heritage Hardwoods near Marshall, a branch of A&M Supply Corp., headquartered in Pinellas Park, Fla.

• Defense attorney: Blair Howard of Warrenton.

• Prosecutor: James P. Fisher, commonwealth’s attorney.

• Next: Bond hearing Thursday, Aug. 21.
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Editor
UPDATE: Judge grants bond Thursday despite prosecutor’s portrayal of “lavish . . . double life.”

• • • 

Authorities have charged a 50-year-old Warrenton man with conducting the largest embezzlement in Fauquier history.

Robin Day Nicholas allegedly embezzled $3.3 million from Heritage Hardwoods just east of Marshall, where he had served as the parent company’s branch manager since 1999.

A Fauquier County Circuit Court special grand jury on Aug. 13 indicted Mr. Nicholas on 60 felony charges.

He remains in jail, awaiting a bond hearing before Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. on Thursday morning. Warrenton lawyer Blair Howard represents Mr. Nicholas.

The alleged crimes took place over more than 13 years. Specifically, Mr. Nicholas faces:

• 28 counts of embezzlement between Oct. 3, 2000, and Jan. 1 of this year.

• 15 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses between Oct. 10, 2000, and April 1 of this year.

• 15 counts of money laundering between Nov. 22, 2000, and Sept. 3, 2009.

• Two counts of making false statements on Virginia income tax returns for 2011 and 2012.

Fauquier County Sheriff’s Detective Justin Schmitt detailed the basis of charges against Mr. Nicholas in a five-page affidavit, unsealed Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Nicholas allegedly used a dummy corporation, false invoices, an Orlean post office box and several checking accounts to steal about $250,000 a year from a multimillion-dollar corporation.

The fake invoices actually totaled $3.8 million, but Heritage Hardwoods got discounts for rapid payments, saving about $500,000 over the course of the embezzlement scheme, according to authorities.

Discovery of the alleged embezzlement started May 31, when Florida-based A&M Supply Corp., the parent company of Heritage Hardwoods, conducted an audit of the Marshall warehouse inventory.

A&M President Ray Prozillo had noticed Heritage Hardwoods “appeared to be carrying too large of an inventory,” Detective Schmitt wrote.

The audit revealed that “large amounts” of building materials — flooring, moulding and architectural elements — showed up in company records but not in the warehouse.

A&M conducted a more extensive audit June 25-29.

“We got a call July 8, after that audit, from their corporate attorney,” Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher said Wednesday.

His office set up an investigative task force with the sheriff’s office, state police, the Secret Service and a special grand jury, Mr. Fisher added.

“All of the supposedly missing inventory appeared to be materials that had been ordered from Coleman Products,” the affidavit says. “An inspection of computer generated documents showed that inventory from Coleman Products had been added to invoices for jobs where that specific material had not been used.

“The labor listed on the invoice was reduced and the product from Coleman was listed in its place, leaving he overall balance on the sheet unchanged. This tactic appeared to blend Coleman Products’ invoices with other products, thus commingling Coleman invoices with other legitimate projects.”

Auditors discovered A&M had no tax form on file for Coleman. Two phone numbers listed for Coleman “were no longer in service.”

Further, the alleged vendor failed to show up in State Corporation Commission records.

Using subpoenas, law enforcement officials pieced together Mr. Nicholas’ alleged scheme. They charge:

• A&M sent 190 checks for false invoices from Coleman Products to P.O. Box 166 in Orlean.

• Mr. Nicholas collected the checks and deposited them into a SunTrust Bank account for “The Day Corp. T/A (trading as) Coleman Products.” Signed Oct. 16, 2000, the account signature card “listed Robin D. Nicholas as the only signature.”

• Bank statements show transfers from that account to another at SunTrust and Citibank accounts in the name of Robin Nicholas.

“We intend to prosecute it vigorously,” Mr. Fisher said of the case. “Recent history in this community suggests that we take embezzlement very seriously.”

He noted that former Goldvein Volunteer Fire Department Secretary/Treasurer Kimberly Strayer will get a three-year prison sentence for embezzling about $70,000 if the judge accepts the terms of her plea agreement Sept. 22.

If convicted, Mr. Nicholas could face a very long prison term. Each conviction of money laundering has a maximum sentence of 40 years and an embezzlement conviction carries a maximum term of 20 years.

As part of the investigation, officers executed three search warrants last week.

From Mr. Nicholas’ home at 9139 Hyde Road, off Waterloo Road north of Warrenton, authorities seized four computers, five data storage devices, two iPads, SunTrust check registers, bank statements, invoices, tax documents, financial documents and “shipping documents in the name of Coleman Products, The Day Corp., Robin Nicholas and (his wife) Julie Nicholas,” according to court records.

From Heritage Hardwoods at 4226 Whiting Road, near Marshall, investigators seized purchase orders, receipts, account information, bank statements, other documents, a passport, computers, thumb drives, file folders and an iPad.

Authorities seized records from two accounts at the SunTrust Bank branch at 251 W. Lee Highway in Warrenton.

Mr. Nicholas and his wife live in a large, brick rambler on 11.2 acres in the Waterloo Farms subdivision. For tax purposes, the county values the real estate at $531,600.

An employee-owned corporation, A&M Supply has 12 locations from Maryland to Florida. Founded in 1951, the wholesaler distributes flooring, cabinets and architectural millwork in the southeastern U.S.

On 12 acres near Marshall, Heritage Hardwoods stores rough-cut lumber, produces custom millwork and supplies stock flooring, moulding and other building materials.
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artch101 · September 4, 2014 at 3:39 pm
I know the people of Fauquier Warrenton over a two year period.
Most people seem to be friendly, but measured in their outlook. Rightly
so, when one looks at the economic and world events as they are existing
at present.
I have gone through my own downturn, economically and professionally,
which still has not been resolved -- mortgage fraud and identity theft
along with a stolen car and a totaled car, not being my fault. I discovered some untruths by several people around me recently, and that has again made me be especially careful. I am still questioning at this point, some alliances, both professional and personal at this point in time. Some of these situations, have occurred in both Virginia and Maryland.
Traffic · August 22, 2014 at 2:27 pm
Okay....Michelley,
You are the one sought after juror the only one they need to get a lighter sentence if you are casting doubt that the wife, family members(exclude the POOR children)did not wonder where the money was coming from.
It is amazing no one turned him in...
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