- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2011

The former treasurer of Goochland County, Va., who has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $200,000 in public funds, funneled the money to a shadowy figure in Nigeria, according to a Virginia state audit released Monday and the prosecutor in the case.

Brenda Grubbs was arrested on Feb. 2 for attempted embezzlement and effectively resigned her position on Feb. 11. She pleaded guilty to a 20-count indictment earlier this month. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 13, and she faces life in prison.

The audit, conducted by the state Auditor of Public Accounts, said Grubbs stole the money through a series of fraudulent counter withdrawals, self-issued checks and wired funds.

Jeffrey Haislip, commonwealth’s attorney for Fluvanna County, told a Goochland Circuit Court judge that virtually all the money Grubbs took went to a man named “Bobby Johnson,” whom Grubbs had met on the online dating website, match.com. The man told her he was from Northern Virginia but working in Nigeria.

In one yarn, he apparently told Grubbs he was on his way to the airport with two of his employees, and they were killed and he was injured.

“I don’t believe there was a Bobby Johnson,” Mr. Haislip told The Washington Times on Monday. “She’s going to be ordered to pay restitution, but the money went to a number of different names in Nigeria, so there’s really no way, as far as I’m aware, to know who ended up with that money.”

So why did she keep sending money to a man she had never met in person?

“I have no way to answer that,” Mr. Haislip said. “We’ve looked at a number of her emails and texts. There were times where she was very suspicious … at more than one point, she indicated that she thought she was being misled, but she continued to send money.”

According to Mr. Haislip, Grubbs‘ lawyer is expected to make the argument at sentencing that she had been battling illness, including depression, which could have contributed to her actions. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment Monday.

The audit reveals that Grubbs used several techniques to embezzle the $180,000.

A majority of the funds were withdrawn from the county using direct counter withdrawals from a checking account from June 2010 through January 2011, where Grubbs made a payment to herself or the county and presented the check at a bank teller’s window to obtain an amount of cash.

There were a total of 33 counter withdrawals between June 23, 2010 and Jan. 28 totaling $143,349, according to the audit.

Investigators also found eight deposits between September 2010 and February that Grubbs tampered with before putting the money in the bank. There were also two checks that she had signed paid to the order of Brenda Grubbs and endorsed, embezzling about $3,200 by those means.

Auditor of Public Accounts Walter Kucharski said that the formal audit was “just our putting the bow on it and moving on.

“Somebody in this day and age — you just sit there amazed that somebody would do that,” he said.