Four sentenced in disability benefits, payroll scheme
ABINGDON, Va. — A pair of former employees of Kennedy Industrial Electronics and their wives have been sentenced for defrauding the United States as part of a disability benefits and payroll scheme that dates back at least 15 years, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
On Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Gerald Lee Stevens, 45, of Lebanon, Virginia, was sentenced to five months incarceration. Back in July, Stevens pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Also on Wednesday, Teena Charlene Stevens, 47, was sentenced to two years of probation. She previously pleaded guilty to one count of causing to be made a false representation concerning the requirements of the Social Security Act.
Earlier this week, Danny M. Hill, 70, of Lebanon, Virginia, was sentenced to eight months incarceration. He previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Also this week, Geneva Hill, 64, was sentenced to two years of probation. She previously pleaded guilty to one count of causing to be made a false representation concerning the requirements of the Social Security Act, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release.
Danny and Geneva Hill were ordered to pay $351,239 in restitution to the Social Security Administration, while Gerald and Teena Stevens were ordered to pay $309,217 in restitution.
Two additional defendants, Harold Kennedy and Hollie Kennedy, will be sentenced in the near future.
According to court documents, between 2001 and 2015 the individuals conspired to defraud the United States through a scheme in which Harold and Hollie Kennedy, the owners of Kennedy Industrial Electronics, failed to report approximately $148,000 in employment taxes, the release states. Those taxes were owed through hours worked by employees Danny Hill, Gerald Stevens and Ricky Matney.
However, Danny Hill, Gerald Stevens and Ricky Matney were each receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and therefore unable to earn additional income without reporting, the release states. The conspirators issued checks to their spouses, Geneva Hill and Teena Stevens, and others.
“Social Security and employment-tax schemes are serious federal crimes and ones that the U.S. attorney’s office and its federal, state, and local partners have made investigating a priority,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen. “Small business owners are required to play by the rules in accounting for their employees and risk serious consequences when they try to get around these requirements.”
Red Onion inmate convicted of threatening letter
The second Red Onion State Prison inmate in just two weeks has been convicted of sending threatening letters to an official connected with previous cases.
A jury in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia, convicted Randall J. Keystone, 55, of sending threatening communications through the mail following the conclusion of a one-day jury trial, U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced Wednesday in a news release.
Keystone, who was originally convicted in 1998 of attempted rape in Lynchburg, Virginia, was found guilty Tuesday of two counts of transmitting in interstate commerce a communication containing a threat to injure another person.
“Communicating threats of death or bodily harm is a serious federal crime and one that we will aggressively prosecute,” Cullen said. “I am grateful for the hard work of the U.S. Marshals Service and the Virginia Department of Corrections in bringing this defendant to justice.”
According to evidence presented at trial, Keystone, while incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison, sent a pair of threatening letters to the former state prosecutor who handled his case in the late 1990s. The former state prosecutor, who was not identified in the news release, but is now an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, received one letter at his home and one at his office.
In both letters, written on or about Jan. 11, 2017, Keystone wrote, “How’d you like someone to put a bullit [sic] in your head? How’d you like me to be the one to do it?”
This isn’t the first time Keystone has been convicted of writing and sending a threatening letter to someone. He was previously convicted of sending a letter to the victim of his Lynchburg case, but that letter was caught before reaching the victim, according to court records.
In August, Mitchell Norbert Nicholas, 41, was also convicted of sending threatening letters to two U.S. judges in the Virgin Islands, where he was previously convicted of murder. Nicholas has been serving time at Red Onion.
Grand jury finds Bristol officers were justified in fatal shooting
BRISTOL, Tenn. — A Sullivan County grand jury this summer has found a fatal Bristol Tennessee Police Department officer-involved shooting as justified.
On June 7, officers went to a residence on Crown Circle to remove Jason Nash following divorce proceedings. A struggle ensued, and Nash pulled a gun, body camera video shows, according to a grand jury report issued Tuesday.
An acquaintance told police that Nash was doing drugs and talked about committing “suicide by cop.” The autopsy report showed the presence of drugs in Nash’s blood, the report states.
Hurley man indicted on murder charge
HURLEY, Va. — A Hurley, Virginia, man has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge following a March shooting death.
Jeremiah Russell May, 27, was also indicted on use of the firearm in the commission of murder, according to Buchanan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Arrington.
Matthew Shon Hurley was shot on March 6 at a home in Hurley. May was originally arrested following the shooting, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
May is currently being held without bail at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Haysi, Virginia.
Bristol man charged in theft of three vehicles
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — A Bristol, Tennessee, man has been charged with three counts of auto theft in Johnson City.
Lloyd M. Matthews, 35, was arrested Wednesday by the Johnson City Police Department. He’s accused of stealing three different vehicles between May 14 and June 15, according to a news release.
Police said a rental Toyota Camry had been found for sale on Craigslist, which led police to Matthews. On June 10, police said Matthews also stole an acquaintance’s Nissan Titan, which was recovered in a field but with heavy damage.
Then, on June 15, a person told police he left his keys in the ignition of an Audi at a Cherokee Road gas station, and a person stole it, the release states. Surveillance video from the store identified Matthews as the suspect, police said. The Audi was found burned on Free Hill Road on June 19.
Matthews is also charged with one count each of identity theft and fraudulent use of a credit card. Bail is set at $17,500.
Police ask for public's help on threats, apparent suicide
APPALACHIA, Va. — The Wise County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in its investigation of whether a series of phone calls made early Sunday were connected to the discovery hours later of a body with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
At approximately 12:30 a.m., Wise County Central Dispatch received a call from a man who said he was going to murder his girlfriend at Inman Village Apartments in Appalachia, according to a news release. The man also made threats to harm law enforcement and said law enforcement had 30 minutes to respond before the murder, police said.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office could not trace the calls because they were made by an internet-based phone system, said Col. Grant Kilgore.
Sheriff’s Office investigators, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals, obtained a callback number to the man who made the original call, and negotiators made several attempts to call him, police said. The man sporadically answered but gave little information, the release states.
During a search of Inman Village, officers reported hearing one round fired from a gun, police said, but officers could not determine where the gunshot came from.
At around 10 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a body at Inman Village. Kilgore said the man is believed to have killed himself.
It’s not known whether the calls and the shooting were related, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Anyone with information is asked to call 276-328-3756.