Woman from Henrico-based company pleads guilty to fraud

A local woman recently pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tenn., to two counts of mail and wire fraud.  Mary Ann Smith, 42, had served as the vice president of marketing for International Business Network (IBN), formerly based at Paragon Place in western Henrico County. 

Information provided by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Central Virginia contributed to her arrest last year on charges that she had preyed on individuals seeking to obtain student visas. It followed a year-long investigation by the BBB and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

In February 2009, Smith sent emails to two residents of the Memphis area, describing a nonexistent student visa program in which the U.S. government supposedly exchanged students with foreign countries on a one-for-one basis. Smith falsely told her Memphis victims that their relatives could obtain student visas and that, five years after the victims' relatives obtained those visas, the visa holders could become legal, permanent residents.

Smith advised them that her services would cost $6,480 per applicant and that the processing time would take six to eight months. After receiving $25,920 from the victims, Smith persuaded each to sign contracts to "sponsor" four of their relatives.

At her guilty-plea hearing, Smith admitted using a “spoofing” service that allowed her to alter her voice on phone calls and make it appear that those calls originated from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.

Although Smith pled guilty to only two counts, all of the charged conduct will be taken into account as relevant conduct at

Smith's sentencing, scheduled for Sept. 21. In addition, Smith agreed to disclose the existence of and forfeit any assets derived from her crime. 

 “We’re delighted that we could assist law enforcement in shutting down this scam artist,” said Tom Gallagher, the BBB’s president and CEO.  He said his staff routinely works very closely with police from various jurisdictions in investigating scams.
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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Regency Square Mall’s Kids Club will meet on the third Thursday of every month from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Enjoy entertainment and crafts for kids eight and under. Kings Dominion and RVA Balloons will be in attendance. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kings Dominion will be able to process their free pre-K passes. Admission is free. For details, call 740-7467 or visit http://www.shopregencysqmall.com. Full text

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