- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2009

RICHMOND | A rural Virginia sheriff who was accused of taking bribes in exchange for promising not to interfere with a cockfighting ring pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of racketeering.

Former Page County Sheriff Daniel W. Presgraves entered his guilty plea at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, according to court documents. As part of a plea agreement, nearly two dozen other charges were dropped.

A 22-count indictment unsealed in October accused Presgraves with racketeering, conspiracy and other charges. The indictment also claimed he intimidated potential witnesses and sexually assaulted and harassed four female employees. In June, he also was indicted on charges of lying to an FBI agent.

Presgraves, whose jury trial was scheduled for September, faces up to 20 years in prison and possibly a fine of up to $250,000 when sentenced later. If convicted of all charges, he would have faced up to more than 300 years in prison.

He resigned as sheriff in February amid a petition drive to remove him from office.

Phone messages left for Presgraves’ attorney and prosecutors weren’t immediately returned.

Federal prosecutors had said that bribes were just the outer layer of criminal activities uncovered during the investigation.

According to U.S. Attorney Julia Dudley, the sheriff accepted at least two $500 bribes from operators of the Little Boxwood cockfighting pit near Stanley, Va. Several people already have pleaded guilty to participating in the cockfighting ring.

The indictment purported that from 2001 to 2004, Presgraves deposited more than $100,000 in public funds into a personal account and that he used Page County Jail inmates to work on his and relatives’ properties. He even contacted state prison officials and persuaded them not to transfer inmates so they could keep working for him, the indictment said.

Presgraves was a state Alcoholic Beverage Control agent for 15 years before being elected sheriff in 2000.

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