Former First Bank VP pleads guilty to embezzlement
ABINGDON, Va. — A former vice president of First Bank & Trust pleaded guilty to a federal embezzlement charge in U.S. District Court in Abingdon on Wednesday.
Lisa Tiller, 39, of Lebanon, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.
Tiller, who worked vice president of electronic banking for 17 years, contacted an e-commerce representative in April to have the Russell County Health Coalition’s bank account added to her personal online banking profile, the release states. Authorities say she then made six transactions between Aug. 5-16, transferring $4,750 from the coalition’s account to her own.
As the bank began an audit and contacted Tiller about the discrepancies on Aug. 20, her husband deposited funds into Tiller’s personal account to cover the loss, and Tiller transferred $4,750 back to the coalition’s account, the release states.
Tiller told bank officials that she wrongly transferred the funds and admitted to the embezzlement to a Russell County Sheriff’s Office investigator, the release states.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 23. Tiller faces a potential maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Board recommends no clemency for Sullivan County woman convicted of trying to kill husband
The state clemency board is recommending against a commutation for a Bluff City, Tennessee, woman convicted of twice trying to kill her husband.
In 2015, Misty Lee Addair, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted premeditated murder and was ordered to serve 15 years in prison. Last year, she filed an application for clemency asking Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to commute her sentence and allow her to be released early from prison.
On Wednesday, the Tennessee Executive Clemency Board, which met in Nashville, made a nonbinding recommendation to the governor to deny Addair’s request for commutation, according to spokesman Dustin Krugel. The recommendation will be sent to Lee, but the governor may or may not act on Addair’s application, Krugel added.
In her application, Addair admitted to giving her husband rat poison for three years and later shooting him. According to Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus, who attended Wednesday’s hearing, Addair shot her husband and left him for dead in the woods when the poison didn’t work.
Addair admitted to the crimes but said she didn’t want her husband to die. She claimed that her husband had been controlling, and she snapped.
The woman said she wants an early release so she can take care of her ill spouse. She also said she wants to help counsel other married couples and families affected by domestic violence.
“I am not requesting to discount my guilt, just a second chance to show what true transformation and reform can produce in someone’s life,” Addair wrote in a letter to Lee.
Staubus strongly opposed Addair’s request for commutation.
“To grant clemency would undermine the rule of law, depreciate the seriousness of the crime committed against the victim and undercut all the efforts in Sullivan County to combat the scourge of domestic violence,” Staubus said.
As a result of the shooting and rat poisoning, Addair’s husband is currently paraplegic, according to Staubus.
Wednesday’s clemency hearings were the first to take place since Lee took office in 2019.
Addair is currently housed at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville.
Forest Service: Signature board at High Knob tower damaged
NORTON, Va. — Vandals recently damaged one of two signs at High Knob Tower in Wise County, according to the USDA Forest Service.
The signature boards were installed when the new tower was constructed to give visitors a place to leave their mark without defacing the rest of the tower, the Forest Service said in a news release. The boards are meant to be displayed in the future as a sort of time capsule of visitors to the tower. The vandalism means that many of the signatures and quotes left by visitors the past few years have been lost, the release states.
The Forest Service said there have been other reported incidences of destruction of property, trash and illegal off-road vehicles use in the Clinch Ranger District of Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, the release states.
The Forest Service asks that people discourage and report vandalism and off-road driving when observed. Call Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, David Ford, at 276-679-8370 x225 to report these.
Pregnancy fraud case inspires online hoax legislation in Virginia
In the wake of an elaborate adoption hoax involving a Southwest Virginia woman who defrauded a California couple by faking a pregnancy, legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly to close what’s being called a loophole in Virginia’s computer crimes laws.
State Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, introduced a bill that would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to maliciously use a computer as part of a hoax that causes another person or business to spend money they wouldn’t have if not for the hoax. It also would require that the perpetrator know or should know that the hoax would cause the victim to spend money.
The law — introduced as SB 1003 — invalidates a potential defense that the defendant did not actually receive any direct or indirect financial benefit from the hoax.
“The Internet is an important tool that allows for instant communication and commerce across the country. Unfortunately, it also is a tool used by criminals to inflict pain and suffering on innocent victims,” Chafin said in a news release about the legislation.
The bill stems from a series of events in 2018 that resulted in Elizabeth Ann Jones, of Nickelsville, pleading guilty in Scott County Circuit Court last year to eight felony counts of obtaining money or property by false pretense, a probation violation and obstruction of justice.
Matt and Laura Trayte, of Orange County, California, had been struggling to have a baby of their own and were looking to adopt. In 2018, Jones contacted the couple to say she was pregnant and looking for an adoptive family for her unborn child.
Jones, who was not pregnant, sent photos to the couple of an ultrasound and a recording of what she claimed to be the baby’s heartbeat. Ultimately, the Traytes ended up drafting adoption paperwork, traveling multiple times to visit Jones in Southwest Virginia and buying meals, gifts and other items for Jones, the release states.
In late 2018, Jones told the couple she was in early labor and something had gone wrong, which she documented with pictures she sent to the couple of a bloody toilet and bed sheets.
When the Traytes traveled from California and helped Jones at Holston Valley Medical Center, Jones admitted she was never pregnant.
Jones was sentenced to 10 years in prison with eight years suspended, but the commonwealth’s attorney involved with the case said it highlighted a shortcoming in state law.
“Jones was convicted in June 2019 of obtaining money by false pretenses because the Traytes bought meals and gifts for her. However, if Jones had not benefited financially from the hoax, she would have escaped prosecution despite her intentional acts to harm others,” said Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp, who served as a special prosecutor in the case.
“That’s why this bill is needed. It prevents others, like Jones, from slipping through the loophole in the computer crimes laws of our Commonwealth.”
The Trayte family has been working to strengthen Virginia’s fraud-related laws in the fallout of the hoax.
“We hope that this legislation will become law so that no one else suffers the pain and heartache that we have experienced,” Laura Trayte said in the release.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Man gets probation on rape, kidnapping charges
BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — A Blountville man will serve probation but no more jail time in connection with a 2018 AMBER Alert case.
Richard Tester, 54, pleaded guilty last year to charges of attempt to commit aggravated kidnapping, aggravated statutory rape and attempt to commit sexual exploitation of a minor in Sullivan County Criminal Court.
On Friday, he was ordered to serve eight years of probation, according to Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney William Harper. Conditions of probation include complying with mental health treatment, complying with sex offender registry, complete sex offender treatment and no contact with the victim, Harper said.
Tester is accused of kidnapping and raping a 17-year-old girl. The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office said after the two were found and Tester was arrested, the teen left with Tester willingly, and she hadn’t been harmed. The Sheriff’s Office also said the two knew each other but wouldn’t say how.
Tester and the teen were reported missing by their families on July 24 and were found in Bristol, Tennessee on July 26. He traveled into Virginia with the teen, which resulted in an Amber Alert being issued.
WCSO: Man arrested in Glade Spring laundromat burglary
GLADE SPRING, Va. — A Glade Spring man has been arrested on burglary charges after authorities responded to a laundromat near Town Square on Tuesday.
Shawn Trey Ward, 26, was charged with burglary and possession of burglarious tools. Ward is being held without bail at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.
On Tuesday night, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the Lost Sock Coin Laundry in Glade Spring for a reported burglary, according to a news release. When the deputy arrived on scene the property owner advised him that someone had cut a hole in the drywall in the restroom, busted a block wall that runs parallel to the alley behind the building, and busted through the wood-paneling around the HVAC vent in hallway.
The suspect left behind a jacket, the release states. A search of the jacket produced a cell phone with no battery, rubber smoking device, Phillips head screw driver and a half-inch drill bit.
After viewing footage from the surveillance camera a man is observed coming into the business and into the restroom where he stayed until he is observed in the hallway where entry was made through the hole cut in the restroom wall, the release states.
Upon entering the hallway, the man triggered the alarm, attempted to open a safe in the business, and then busted through the wood-paneling to exit the building. The suspect was wearing tan pants, brown shoes, and the jacket that was left at the scene.
When the deputy cleared the scene he observed a man matching the description of the suspect walking on Monte Vista Avenue. The deputy approached the man who consented to a search of himself and his backpack, the release states. The search produced a battery that fit the cell phone recovered at the scene and tools that would have been used to at the scene to break through the block and cut the drywall.
VSP confirms man died following incident with Bristol police
BRISTOL, Va. — The Virginia State Police confirmed Wednesday that a man died following an incident with a Bristol officer late last year.
At the request of the Bristol Virginia Police Department, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Wytheville Field Office initiated an investigation into the apprehension of a pursuit suspect on the night of Dec. 29, 2019, according to information provided by spokeswoman Corinne Geller.
On Dec. 30, the person, Frederick M. Sullins, 40, of Bristol, Tennessee, died while being treated at the Bristol Regional Medical Center. His remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke, Virginia, for examination and autopsy.
State police has completed its investigation and turned its findings over to the Bristol, Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney for final review and adjudication of the case.
Bristol police previously said an officer pulled over a vehicle on Commonwealth Avenue due to an equipment violation. As the officer approached the vehicle, the driver drove away. The vehicle drove a short distance west on West State Street and the officer attempted another contact, but the suspect driver exited the vehicle and ran away on foot.
The officer gave chase, running back toward Commonwealth Avenue, police said. The man reportedly threw something off a small bridge over a creek just before being overtaken by the police officer, who then tackled the suspect and they both went to the ground, police said.
The suspect lost consciousness and rescue personnel were called to the scene. The suspect was transported to a local hospital, where it was determined that he had received possible serious head injuries during his fall, police said. He later died, VSP confirmed.
The officer has not been identified.
Affidavit: Woman locked burning storage unit door from outside
GLADE SPRING, Va. — A woman facing manslaughter and abduction charges in Glade Spring locked the door of a storage unit before fire killed a man inside Saturday, according to court documents.
Kelly Lynn Goff, 46, of Glade Spring, was arraigned Tuesday in Washington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court following her arrest Saturday evening. She was charged in connection with the death of Walter Lampkins, 46, also of Glade Spring.
Detective Marty Lloyd said he was dispatched to the Glade Spring Mini-Storage on U.S. Highway 11 on Saturday afternoon in reference to a body found inside a storage unit that had been on fire, according to a criminal affidavit filed in Domestic Relations Court.
Upon arrival, Lloyd said he spoke with Goff, who rented the storage unit. She told the detective that Lampkins, who she had a child with, had been staying in the unit. After viewing surveillance video, Lloyd said it shows Goff closing the unit door and locking it as she leaves.
During the video, Lloyd could see a fire burning from inside the unit and Lampkins trying to free himself, the affidavit states. On the video, no one else can be seen entering or exiting the storage unit before or after the fire. The door had been locked from the outside, Lloyd wrote.
Sheriff Blake Andis said detectives believe the fire was started by a heater that Lampkins had in the unit.
Several local volunteer fire departments responded to the blaze, which damaged about 25 units, Andis said.
Goff, whose address is listed in court records as the nearby Econo Lodge, is being held without bail at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.
She is a lifelong Glade Spring resident, the affidavit states. She has previous convictions in Washington County on charges of credit card forgery, embezzlement, misdemeanor shoplifting and driving under revocation/suspension.
Saltville woman charged with murder in death of elderly Glade Spring woman
ABINGDON, Va. -- A Saltville woman has been charged with murder in the death of an elderly Glade Spring woman whose body was found in her car last Thursday.
Karen Lou Holmes, 48, has been charged with first-degree murder, robbery, use of a firearm in commission of a felony and possession of a firearm after being a convicted felon, Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis announced during a news conference tonight.
The body of 79-year-old Alberta Susan Ward was found in a vehicle in a parking area along Widener Valley Road near Bishop Road, which is close to the Smyth County line.
The death is believed to be tied to drug activity, the sheriff said.
Andis said a gun believed to be the murder weapon, money and traces of drugs were found.
He added that Holmes has an extensive criminal history in a number of states.
VSP: Glade Spring Town Square fire deemed suspicious
GLADE SPRING, Va. — A fire in the historic Glade Spring Town Square is believed to be suspicious in nature, according to the Virginia State Police.
The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Wytheville Field Office is encouraging anyone with information concerning a fire that occurred Jan. 16, in the town of Glade Spring to contact 276-889-7660 or by email at email@example.com.
At 7:07 p.m., a 911 call was received about a fire at a commercial building in the 100 block of East Glade Street. The entire building was damaged by the fire, which is divided into commercial and residential space. No one was in the building at the time of the fire.
The origin and cause of the fire remain under investigation, VSP said in a news release on Tuesday. At this stage of the investigation, the fire does appear to be suspicious in nature. The Glade Spring Police Department is assisting with the investigation.
2 traffic stops end in drug charges
ABINGDON, Va. — Two traffic stops led to two arrests on drug-related charges in Washington County on Sunday.
At around midnight, an officer attempted a routine traffic stop on William Everett Himes, who ran away on foot, according to a news release from Sheriff Blake Andis. He was arrested after a pursuit, and several ounces of methamphetamine and a loaded firearm were found, the release states.
An additional traffic stop on Amber E. Arthur, who is Himes’ acquaintance, was performed, and several ounces of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, a loaded gun and a bag of meth were recovered, the release states.
Both stops occurred in the Benhams Road area of the county.
Himes was charged with second offense possession of a schedule I or II controlled substance with intention to sell or distribute, eluding law enforcement, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm in possession of a schedule I or II controlled substance and an outstanding capias out of Washington County, according to the release.
Arthur was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance, possession of controlled paraphernalia and possession of schedule I or II controlled substances.
Himes and Arthur are being held without bail at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon.
MS-13 inmates sent to restricted unit after USP Lee stabbing
NEW YORK (AP) — The federal Bureau of Prisons is moving some MS-13 gang members in its custody into more restricted housing at certain high-security facilities across the U.S. after a gang stabbing in a Virginia prison, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Saturday.
A brawl broke out Wednesday at the prison known as USP Lee between the MS-13 leader and a fellow inmate associated with the Mexican Mafia, and the gang member was stabbed, the people said. The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that the inmate was injured but survived the attack. No one else was injured, the agency said.
Fearing retaliation, officials have started moving some MS-13 inmates into more secured units at the six federal high security prisons, the people said. It was unclear how many inmates were restricted, or how long they’d be separated from the general population.
The prison, in Jonesville, Virginia, houses about 1,500 men. The FBI was notified about the attack and the Bureau of Prisons also launched an internal investigation, which remains ongoing.
The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the incident, which remains under investigation.
The Bureau of Prisons has been plagued for years by chronic violence, extensive staffing shortages and serious misconduct. The agency has come under increased scrutiny since wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein took his own life in federal custody in August.
An independent report released in September found that inmates had expressed concerns about a culture of violence that they believed extended to the prison’s leadership and included allegations that staff members both perpetrated and encouraged violence against inmates. The restrictive housing means they will be held separate from the general inmate population, and may be held in a cell either alone or with other inmates.
At one facility in Florida, at least a dozen MS-13 members were placed in the special housing unit. Visitation at both USP Lee, the abbreviated name of the U.S. penitentiary, and another prison, USP Big Sandy in Kentucky was canceled as a result of the fight. There will be no visitation at USP Lee until at least Monday, according to an automated recording at the facility.
Lee prison was also placed on limited operational status a few months ago after an inmate assaulted a staff member, officials said at the time. The staff member was hospitalized after the incident, WCYB-TV in Virginia reported in October. The facility has also had issues with contraband. In 2014, a guard at Lee pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes to smuggle tobacco products and a cellphone into the prison.
The federal Bureau of Prisons has 175,269 inmates housed in 122 different facilities around the country.
Sullivan man arrested on tax evasion charges
BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — A Sullivan County man has been arrested on tax evasion charges by special agents with the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
Revenue agents arrested Edwin Gerald Kilgore Wednesday at his home, according to a news release.
Last week, a Sullivan County grand jury indicted Kilgore on two counts of tax evasion and forgery, and one count of theft. The indictments allege Kilgore falsified information on the form for titling his motor home with the Sullivan County Clerk’s Office. He also failed to pay sales tax due on the registration to the state, the release states.
“The Department of Revenue promotes voluntary taxpayer compliance by educating taxpayers, aggressively pursuing criminal sanctions and demanding accountability when taxpayers engage in fraudulent activity," Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano said. "This indictment underscores the Department's ongoing efforts to enforce Tennessee's tax laws."
The department is pursuing the criminal case in cooperation with the office of District Attorney Barry Staubus.
4 Bristol residents arrested in traffic stop on weapons, drug charges
ABINGDON, Va. — Four Bristol, Tennessee residents were arrested early Wednesday when officers found weapons and drugs in a vehicle during a traffic stop.
At around 1 a.m. on King Mill Pike, deputies and K-9 Hank searched a vehicle and found a pistol, multiple switchblade knives and brass knuckles, according to a news release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Officers also found methamphetamine, marijuana and counterfeit money, authorities said.
Joshua Hubbard was charged with possession of a concealed weapon and false identification to law enforcement to avoid arrest. He’s being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon on $1,500 bail.
Morgan Perry was charged with possession of Schedule I or II narcotics with intent to distribute, possession of Schedule I or II ecstasy and possession of counterfeit coins or money.
Desiera Hess was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of Schedule I or II narcotics and possession of a concealed weapon.
Jacob Cosgrove was charged with possession of a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana.
Perry, Hess and Cosgrove were released on their own recognizance.
“I am very proud of the officers and their hard work,” Sheriff Blake Andis said.
Andis said deputies have been working diligently to remove illegal narcotics from the community. In the past five days, deputies have arrested 13 people on various drug charges, he added.
Hank, the K-9 who assisted with the arrest, has only been working on the force since Jan. 1.
Meth up, meth labs down in Tennessee
Over the last decade, law enforcement agencies across Northeast Tennessee have seized more methamphetamine while the number of meth labs has decreased, indicating an influx in imported meth, a press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation states.
In 2019, TBI’s crime laboratories in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville analyzed 12,072 methamphetamine submissions versus 2,190 submissions in 2014, TBI data shows. However, across the state of Tennessee, there were only 44 meth lab seizures in 2019, compared to 990 in 2014. The number of meth submissions in 2019 also surpassed those of marijuana (9,795), a first since TBI’s crime laboratories started keeping detailed statistics, the press release states.
Leslie Earhart, a public information officer for TBI, said the majority of meth cases they are dealing with involve imported meth from outside the country, which is of a higher quality, stronger and cheaper than domestically made meth. Beyond the increased availability of cheaper, more potent forms of meth, David Rausch, the director of TBI, said that there appears to be a link between the ongoing opioid crisis and the increase in meth.
“As more people struggle with opioid addiction, many of them will — with time — seek out stimulants like methamphetamine,” Rausch said.
For the last several years, local law enforcement agencies have seen increases in meth-related arrests, with meth eclipsing arrests involving opioids, marijuana and other drugs, data from TBI’s TIBRS database and the Virginia State Police’s NIBRS database show. In Sullivan County from 2014 to 2018, meth-related arrests increased tenfold; Bristol, Virginia and Washington County, Virginia, also saw significant but relatively smaller increases.
Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said investigations by county law enforcement agencies have found that the supply of meth funneled into Sullivan County is cheap, pure and imported from Mexico by way of Atlanta, Georgia. He said the influx of meth has led to an increase in meth-related overdoses, as well as a trend of previous opioid users purchasing the cheaper meth.
Capt. Andy Seabolt with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office said meth is a problem officers deal with on an almost daily basis, and they have seen amounts moved that vary from an ounce or less to three pounds.
Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said what they’re dealing with is similar to what’s going on across the state line. He said the imported meth flowing into the area is cheaper than ever and crystal clear as opposed to domestically made meth, which he said often looks similar in color to a peanut butter cookie.
He said that an ounce of meth would cost anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 several years ago, but now prices range anywhere from $400 to $800, depending on whether or not the dealer cuts it with an additional drug.
North Carolina runaway faces felony charges in Southwest Virginia
MARION, Va. — A runaway teenager from Fayetteville, North Carolina, faces charges in Smyth County after authorities said she fled from police and crashed.
On Wednesday, a Smyth County deputy spotted a Honda traveling 83 miles per hour in a 70 mile per hour zone, according to Sheriff Chip Shuler. The vehicle, driven by a 16-year-old girl, failed to stop and sped at more than 100 miles per hour. It crashed into a pole and rolled over several times, Shuler said.
The vehicle had been reported stolen from the Fort Bragg area and the girl, who suffered minor injuries, was a runaway, Shuler said. Charges of felony eluding, reckless driving and possession of stolen property have been filed in Smyth County Juvenile Court. The girl’s parents have been notified, Shuler said.
Recommendation made to deny convicted Bristol man of parole in murder case
BRISTOL, Tenn.—At least one Tennessee Board of Parole member has recommended to deny parole for a Bristol man convicted in a 1990 murder case.
Jack Shuttle had a parole hearing Thursday in Johnson City. Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus, who appeared at the hearing, said the recommendation was to deny parole and come back in two years.
A decision will be made by the full board within seven to 10 days, Staubus said.
Shuttle was convicted in the 1990 death of a 15-year-old girl. Shuttle was 20 years at the time when the girl was choked. He apparently had met with the girl at a Bristol skating rink.
Over $500K of heroin seized, three charged in Kingsport drug investigation
KINGSPORT, Tenn. — Three people face felony drug charges in connection to an investigation that led Kingsport police to seize more than $500,000 worth of heroin and over 500 pills.
An investigation into reported drug trafficking started in late 2018 with Tyrone Lamas Hitchcock, who was wanted in Michigan for absconding while on parole, a KPD news release states. The investigation also led authorities to two others who they believe to be involved — Rachel J. Bradley, Hitchcock’s girlfriend, and Ashley L. Hagood.
Officials arrested the trio in December after they were indicted by a Sullivan County grand jury. Hitchcock, 34, has been charged with criminal conspiracy to possess heroin for sale and delivery and four counts of sale and delivery of heroin. He is also wanted by the Michigan Department of Corrections for violating parole, the release states.
Bradley, 27, was charged with criminal conspiracy to possess heroin for sale and delivery and four counts of sale and delivery of heroin, according to the release.
Hagood, 44, was charged with 10 counts of sale and delivery of heroin, criminal conspiracy to possess heroin for sale and delivery, sale and delivery of gabapentin, sale and delivery of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school and maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used or sold.
As part of the investigation, authorities say they seized four pounds of heroin with a street value of over $500,000, as well more than 500 pills, about $25,000 in cash and a number of firearms.
The three remain at the Sullivan County jail in Blountville. Hitchcock and Hagood are being held without bond, and Bradley is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail, the release states.