Former Va. volunteer fire chief pleads guilty to wire fraud, false tax filing

A former volunteer fire chief and Prince William County schools worker accused of stealing from both of his jobs pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud and filing a false tax return during a hearing that prompted a judge to rebuke federal prosecutors about their handling of the case.

Douglas G. Taylor, 52, the former chief of the Remington Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department in Fauquier County, admitted far less wrongdoing than what he had been accused of initially, pleading guilty to just two of the original eight counts on his indictment. And his attorneys vowed in court that they would continue fighting the government’s assertions that Taylor took $90,000 from the fire department and $60,000 from the school system — though they agreed Taylor had done some wrong.

Federal prosecutors had initially accused Taylor, who served as chief of the Remington department from 1994 to 2011, of submitting fake invoices for materials he did not buy when he did renovation work for his department.

They also said Taylor, a licensed master electrician, cheated Prince William schools by inappropriately using a school system credit card he had access to as a facilities services worker. Taylor would use the card to buy materials for the fire department’s renovations, prosecutors alleged, then, in some cases, request that the department reimburse him.

Taylor’s plea, though, is based on much narrower crimes. He admitted billing his department about $1,900 in October 2008 for a sink and wall mount that he later purchased for about $700, and he admitted filing a tax return that did not accurately reflect his extensive gambling winnings and losses. Prosecutors dropped the other charges against Taylor, but they could still bring up the alleged broader wrongdoing at his sentencing.

For his part, Taylor acknowledged that he had not kept meticulous records about his purchases for the department’s renovation work, though he struggled to explain why he had billed the department improperly for the sink.

“It was just an ongoing project where it wasn’t just the sink,” he said.

Defense attorney Todd Watson said he disputes many of the prosecutors’ allegations, though they had not provided him with enough material to know exactly how. He said prosecutors were unwilling to tell him how they had generated certain numbers in more than 30,000 pages of documents.

At one point, Watson handed up a heavily redacted document to federal district court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema — an example, he said, of prosecutors not giving him adequate information. Brinkema said she was “very concerned about these allegations.”

“It looks like a national security case,” she joked. “Over half of this is redacted.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jasmine Yoon told Brinkema that she did not feel prepared to respond because she was filling in on a case handled by a different attorney. Brinkema ordered prosecutors to turn over the relevant material by Sept. 20 so it can be debated at the Dec. 13 sentencing. Taylor faces a maximum of 23 years in prison.

Taylor’s attorneys, Yoon and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.

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