An advisory neighborhood commssioner in the Washington Highlands neighborhood of Southeast has been charged with embezzling city funds after police said they found evidence that he wrote thousands of dollars in checks to other people on the ANC bank account and then cashed the checks himself.
Police said an investigation of Robert L. Yeldell showed that from 1986 to 1990 he wrote more than 175 checks totaling more than $9,000 on the ANC bank account that he then countersigned over to himself. A grand jury is now investigating the case.
Yeldell, a longtime political activist, had been treasurer of ANC 8E. He is also vice president of the Ward 8 Democrats, head of the 7th Police District Citizens Advisory Committee and is running unopposed for ANC commissioner in November.
His brother is Joseph P. Yeldell, the former director for the D.C. Office of Emergency Preparedness who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for D.C. delegate.
In a telephone interview last week, Robert Yeldell said he wrote the checks and cashed them. He said he used the money to pay local teenagers to clean the ANC office. He said the teenagers came from poor families and did not have the wherewithal to cash checks. He said he paid $25 every week to have a teenager clean the offices, picking a different teen every week.
The internal affairs division of D.C. police department conducted an investigation after one of Yeldell's colleagues on the commission reported a suspicion that Yeldell was misusing ANC funds.
Commissioner Phyllis Knight, who is also a District police officer, said she noticed that Yeldell had written several checks to Louis R. Washington for cleaning the ANC office. She said she had never seen Washington and that he had never gone to the ANC office to pick up a check, according to court documents. Moverover, all the checks to Washington, which dated back to 1986, were countersigned by Yeldell, she said.
Sgt. Lillian Overton, who took over the investigation, said Yeldell first said Washington was a student who cleaned the ANC office and then said Washington was a retired man who was in need of money.
Overton said some of the checks were for more than $25, but would not elaborate.
Washington told investigators that he had never seen the checks that were made out to him, according to court documents.
Yeldell said in the interview that Washington is an old friend from school and he "picked his name out of a hat."
Police arrested Yeldell Aug. 30 and charged him with first-degree theft, a felony. He has been released on his own recognizance.
The U.S. Attorney's Office would not comment on the case.
The District has 37 ANCs that advise the city government on neighborhood issues such as liquor license applications and zoning aplications. Last year, the city spent $1.2 million on the ANCs.
ANC 8E, which has an annual budget of about $29,600, represents neighborhoods east of Oxon Run Parkway SE, between Alabama Avenue and Atlantic streets SE.
The ANC office at the Washington Highland Elementary School has been locked shut since July, according to the ANC office manager, in part because the commission had not paid its rent. The office reopened Monday.