Non-profit’s leaders plead guilty

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 9, 2008

NORFOLK—A federal judge Thursday accepted guilty pleas from two leaders of a non-profit agency who had been accused of making false statements in connection with a federal housing grant.

After questioning them carefully about whether they understood the implications of their pleas, U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson pronounced Leo Hardy Jr. and Shirley H. Walden guilty of a single felony count each of making false statements.

Hardy, of Drewryville, had been charged with three counts, and Walden, of Newsoms, had been charged with two counts. They pleaded guilty to the single count as part of a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office.

In 2001, Hardy was president and Walden treasurer of the non-profit agency, which received $150,000 in grants that year to assist in the development and construction of single-family homes for the Beaton Avenue Development project in Boykins.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, an official with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development met with the suspects in May 2005 to determine the status of the project.

The pair gave officials documents falsely stating that some of the money had been spent on construction of one house and the remainder would be used in the future to build others, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The following day, prosecutors contend, Hardy faxed the state official another document stating that the grant money had been used as a down payment and in the development of a house that had been built.

The government charges that Hardy and Walden spent the money for an unauthorized purpose within months of receiving it in 2001.

A jury trial had been scheduled for June 30, but the plea agreement caused the case to be moved up on the docket.

A pre-sentence report on each of the defendants will be completed prior to a Sept. 29 sentencing hearing. The maximum penalty for the crime is five years in the penitentiary and a $250,000 fine.

The judge said the defendants also would be responsible for making restitution to the government for its losses.