Former Coeburn official appears in court on embezzlement charges

Stephen Igo • Aug 23, 2013 at 10:31 PM

WISE — A former Coeburn official appeared before a Wise County magistrate on Friday for initial legal proceedings stemming from a 135-count indictment returned by a county grand jury on Thursday alleging the embezzlement of funds from a Coeburn arts and recreation facility.

Adrian Collins, Wise County’s chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney, said he believed bond for Loretta Mays, Coeburn’s former town manager, was set at $25,000 and she would enter a plea to the charges during an arraignment hearing in Wise County Circuit Court either by Friday evening or on Monday.

There were actually two indictments returned on Thursday, but limitations of the court’s computer system can’t handle 135 counts on a single indictment file. The first indictment charges 33 counts of forgery, 33 counts of uttering, 30 counts of felony embezzlement and three counts of misdemeanor embezzlement.

A misdemeanor embezzlement involves an allegation of less than $200, and a felony embezzlement allegation involves more than $200.

The second indictment charges 11 counts of forgery, 11 counts of uttering, 10 counts of felony embezzlement, one count of misdemeanor embezzlement, one count of identity fraud, one count of attempted uttering, and one count of attempted embezzlement.

On Thursday, Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ron Elkins said the total cash involved in the allegations is about $30,000.

In February, the Virginia State Police began investigating allegations of possible improprieties involving the financial accounts of the Lay’s Hardware Center for the Arts.

That same month, Coeburn Town Council placed Mays on paid administrative leave and since that time removed her from the position altogether.

Elkins said the VSP is also conducting a separate investigation into the town’s own finances and that probe awaits the results of an audit.

Mays was hired as Coeburn’s town manager in 2006. Late last year, Coeburn Town Council changed her status to interim town manager, followed by revelations in February of an investigation into the Lay’s Hardware matter by the VSP.

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