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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.


Community

MADD walk raises more than $26,000

The Central Virginia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hosted its annual Walk Like MADD fundraiser April 12 at Dorey Park in Varina. More than 20 teams of walkers raised money from individual donors by participating in the walk, and in total the event generated more than $26,000 in donations for the organization. > Read more.

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson will hold a Community Conversations meeting to discuss with residents Henrico County’s budget and crime prevention efforts in Varina. The meeting will be held… Full text

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