Fairfax City officials yesterday filed a $2.7 million civil lawsuit against former city treasurer Frances L. Cox -- more than four times the amount officials said disappeared from city accounts during her tenure.
Cox, 58, was convicted Sept. 16 of embezzling what prosecutors said was at least $200,000 in city funds and sentenced to 10 years in jail. She is free on $75,000 bond pending an appeal.
The suit filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court attempts to recover $600,000 city officials estimated disappeared from the treasury from 1976-81; $600,000 in "double damages" allowed in such cases under Virginia law; and $1.5 million in punitive damages. Cox's attorney, John H. Rust Jr., said yesterday that he had not seen the lawsuit and declined comment.
The suit also names Cox's 77-year-old husband, Robert, and the Aetna Insurance Company, which bonded her performance. A city official said the company has not yet paid city claims totalling $250,000 for Cox's last five years in office.
Robert Cox, who is said to be terminally ill, is included in the suit because property valued at about $272,000 owned jointly by the couple was transferred to his name four days after his wife was convicted, said Fairfax City Attorney William F. Roeder Jr. The suit alleges the land transfer was made with the intent to defraud Cox's creditors and asks the court to void the transfer.
Roeder said seizure of the property, a valuable site located at 4200 Chain Bridge Road within view of the City Hall, is "the major asset we have to go after." He said that although the land is now valued at about $272,000, it could be rezoned from residental to commercial property, increasing its value dramatically. The couple's red brick home and a small frame house now occupy the property.
There is little chance of recovering the full amount of the suit, Roeder said. "Our objective is to get back for the city as much money as possible as quickly as possible," he said. Cox testified at her sentencing hearing that she had only about $1,000 in her bank accounts.