- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

RICHMOND — A grand jury has indicted the former director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and two other former employees on charges of misusing state funds.

The Richmond multijurisdiction grand jury indicted former department Director William Woodfin Jr. and former game wardens Michael Caison and Terry Bradbery on Sept. 12. The indictments were unsealed yesterday.

Mr. Woodfin and board chairman Dan Hoffler, a Virginia Beach developer, resigned in 2005 after a 51-page audit accused department officials of waste, cronyism, misuse of state property and retaliation against employees after it was revealed that Messrs. Woodfin, Hoffler, Caison and Bradbery went on a 2004 African safari. Although Mr. Hoffler eventually picked up the tab for the trip, the audit questioned purchases of hunting gear for the excursion charged to state credit cards.

According to the state audit report, Mr. Hoffler gave the three men almost $50,000 worth of gifts. Two watercraft and an all-terrain vehicle owned by the agency were kept at Mr. Hoffler”s waterfront home on the Eastern Shore, the audit found.

Each of the counts is a felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Mr. Caison and Mr. Woodfin each face two counts, and Mr. Bradbery faces one. Mr. Hoffler is not named in the indictment.

Mr. Bradbery plans to plead not guilty, said his attorney, Murray Janus.

“I’m not aware that any law has been violated — I just don’t see the offense,” Mr. Janus said. “The state is not out any money whatsoever. This trip was approved. There was no state time that was used.”

Attorneys for Mr. Caison and Mr. Woodfin did not return calls seeking comment.

In a statement, Mr. Hoffler said he was extremely disappointed to hear of the indictments and said he had cooperated with the investigation.

“I sincerely hope this does not tarnish the reputation of the department, which is without question one of the best in the nation,” he said.

Mr. Bradbery and Mr. Woodfin were served their indictments in court on Tuesday and were released on $5,000 personal recognizance bonds, said J. Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. Mr. Caison was served his indictment in court yesterday and released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

All three were ordered to return to court Nov. 5, at which time a trial date will be set.

No other indictments are being sought, and the prosecution will be handled jointly by the offices of the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney and the Virginia attorney general, Chief Deputy Attorney General William Mims said.

The game department released a statement noting that Messrs. Woodfin, Caison and Bradbery are no longer affiliated with the agency, with Board of Game and Inland Fisheries Chairman James Hazel adding: “This issue is now a matter for the courts.”

Mr. Mims said that as a result of the investigation, his office will propose legislation during the 2008 General Assembly session that specifically targets the game department and the state and local governments regarding the obligation to be “a good steward of our citizens’ tax dollars.”

Messages left with the commonwealth’s attorney’s office were not returned.

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