SoCo deputy, former Village employee arrested [Update]
Published 10:07 am Thursday, May 21, 2015
A Southampton County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a former employee of The Village at Woods Edge turned themselves over for arrest to the U.S. Marshals service on Thursday at 11 a.m., in connection with defrauding the retirement community of at least $177,227.
The related indictment outlined six counts in connection with mail fraud was filed by U.S. Attorney Elizabeth M. Yusi in U.S. District Court of Norfolk at 5:20 p.m. on Wednesday.
The couple, Michael and Marian Lewis, has been charged with one count conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and five counts mail fraud. The fraud is alleged to have been ongoing from at least Nov. 27, 2009, to Feb. 26, 2014.
Charges are reportedly related to work that Marian Lewis did in connection with her job at The Village at Woods Edge. The Village Executive Director Rhonda Stewart confirmed that Marian Lewis had worked there, and her most recent role was in accounting and as an administrative assistant.
“I can’t comment on the details,” Stewart said in a statement. “The matter was turned over to authorities, and it is now in the hands of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice. The Village will be following the case very closely.”
According to the indictment, the couple schemed to defraud The Village, obtaining money and property for their own use. During her employment, Marian Lewis is alleged to have made fraudulent credit card purchases using the Village’s money by mailing payments to the credit card companies and by stealing currency from The Village.
She, along with Michael Lewis, reportedly made many of these purchases for personal use by the family and to improve their residence.
The purchases included, but are not limited to: tools such as a table saw and concrete; appliances such as an air heater, vacuums, food processor, blender, coffee maker and a portable air conditioner; hotel stays; a computer and computer software; a camera; household bills including groceries, phone and gas; and other household items, including lamps, ceiling fans, light fixtures, kitchen fixtures, cabinets, shelves, knives, painting supplies, window blinds, holiday decorations, cleaning supplies, patio stones, sheets, party supplies and pool toys.
On or about Oct. 17, 2012, Michael Lewis accompanied Marian Lewis to deliver televisions to The Village that were purchased using the company’s Walmart credit card. The couple is alleged to have retained a Vizio 32” LCD TV for their home.
The couple is also alleged to have stolen currency from customers’ payments at The Village’s hair salon and restaurant. Michael Lewis and others known and unknown would reportedly sometimes take the currency from Marian Lewis while she was at the company and deposit it in their bank accounts.
In executing the affidavit for a search warrant of Marian Lewis’ Bronco Federal Credit Union account on April 11, 2014, probable cause was determined through an audit that began in March 2013 and was completed by the accounting firm Britt and Peak. The audit revealed that $8,000 in cash had been stolen from the restaurant’s receipts. Two independent reconciliations were done daily prior to the cash and paperwork being submitted to Lewis. The investigation revealed that the cash deposited into The Village’s bank account was less than the cash received. However, on the retirement community’s books, which were alleged to have been kept by Marian Lewis, deposits reconciled with what was on the general ledger.
Continued investigation led to a search warrant being issued for the Lewis’ Country Club Road, Courtland, residence on April 16, 2014.
The warrant was related to purchases made on credit cards reportedly in Marian Lewis’ name or in her exclusive possession.
She was employed at The Village from 1991 to March 2014.
Michael Lewis, who is a deputy working in one of the jails, has been suspended without pay, said Sheriff J.B. “Jack” Stutts. The sheriff said he found out about the indictment on Wednesday evening, and the suspension was put in effect this morning.
Joshua Stueve, public information officer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the agency had no comment on the matter. The Southampton County couple was before Magistrate Judge Tommy E. Miller on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. for their initial appearance. The couple is now out on a personal recognizance bond, said Marian Lewis’ defense attorney Drew Page of Randall|Page.
“We are going through all of the information and developing strategies,” Page said. “Obviously, my client is innocent until proven guilty, so we ask the people of Franklin and Southampton County to withhold all judgments until the facts are heard, and then the truth will come out.
“I am a Franklin resident, and I understand the importance that The Village brings to our community.”
The arraignment date for the couple is set for Wednesday, May 27, at 9 a.m.
Staff writer Andrew Lind also contributed to this report.