Martinsburg man indicted on embezzlement and fraud charges

May 25, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A man accused of stealing $250,000 from a land development company that he and a sheriff’s deputy owned was indicted Thursday on embezzlement and fraud charges by a Berkeley County grand jury.

George H. Van Wagner, 59, of P.O. Box 867 in Martinsburg, was indicted on one count of felony embezzlement and four counts of fraudulent schemes, according to an indictment released by Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely’s office.

Van Wagner, while acting as an agent of Topaz LLC, is accused of stealing the money from the company, a venture that he and Sheriff's Deputy Steven A. Crites formed in 2006, according to the indictment and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.

Crites, who was placed on administrative leave earlier this year, was indicted in April in federal district court on bank fraud charges, which are tied to Topaz LLC and other business partnerships, according to court documents.

Crites has pleaded not guilty to a four-count indictment, which is pending against him in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg.

In addition to his sheriff’s deputy position, Crites was working as a real estate developer and builder when the alleged crimes involving Wells Fargo Bank occurred between May 2006 and March 2008, according to court and county records.

Aside from the embezzlement charges, Van Wagner’s indictment alleges that he took more than $46,000 in rent from four individuals residing in the 2000 block of Middleway Pike while falsely claiming he was entitled to collect the money from them.

In an interview in March 2011, Crites said he had trusted Van Wagner, despite his business partner’s drug-related convictions and association with former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry.

Van Wagner in a separate interview last year did not deny being sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for his involvement in a drug ring that reportedly brought hundreds of pounds of cocaine to the Washington area, but then asserted that “the past is the past.”

Van Wagner maintained that he was “a straight shooter” in his dealings with Crites and did nothing wrong. He also claimed his embezzlement case was not fully investigated by the police.

 An indictment merely indicates that an individual is believed to have committed a crime.

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