- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

Ashley Ward Abbot, a former office manager for the conservative think tank Frontiers of Freedom Institute, has been charged by Fairfax County police with embezzling more than $165,000 from the organization's coffers.
Miss Abbot, 27, was arrested outside the First Virginia Bank on South Van Dorn Street on July 11, after trying to withdraw approximately $37,000 that she had deposited earlier in the week.
A court date of Sept. 10 at the Fairfax County Courthouse has been set.
"We were very surprised with this, because this was not the type of employee we thought she was," said George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom.
Mr. Landrith said Miss Abbot was hired by the company in April and performed the duties of an office manager, but also had access to the organization's accounting software. The company did a pre-employment background check on her, he said.
Frontiers of Freedom was founded by former U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop, Wyoming Republican, after his retirement in 1994. The organization regularly offers opinion pieces and policy proposals on a variety of topics, including the disposal of nuclear waste at the Yuca Mountain site in Nevada and the promotion of free trade.
Mr. Landrith said someone broke into the Frontiers of Freedom office before working hours Monday, July 8, and accessed the organization's financial software.
Several days later, as the investigation into the break-in unfolded, Miss Abbot left a sobbing phone message on the company's voice mail and sounded as if she were under "duress," Mr. Landrith said. Miss Abbot had been scheduled to return from vacation the day of the break-in but failed to report to work, he said.
Messages left at the residence listed for Miss Abbot were not returned.
In addition to the four counts of embezzlement, investigators are also looking into whether she applied for a $200,000 loan on behalf of the company and ran up more than $2,000 in company credit card charges, Mr. Landrith said.
However, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department would not comment on the investigation.

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