A Prince William County grand jury indicted the president of the Manassas Park Volunteer Fire Company this week on one charge of embezzlement after city and state officials alleged that she pilfered at least $3,000 from the small agency.
Prosecutors expect Edith Plaugher, 51, to appear in court tomorrow to surrender herself to authorities. A warrant was issued for Plaugher's arrest, after her indictment was handed down Monday. Plaugher could face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted on the embezzlement charge.
Manassas Park officials began to investigate Plaugher in April, when a co-signer of the fire department's checks alerted the city manager to discrepancies in the agency's finances. Brett Shorter, who was the acting city manager at the time, said Manassas officials pored over the department's bank statements and turned up a series of "checks of questionable destination," all of which he said could be linked to Plaugher.
Shorter said that the embezzled funds were used for purchases that had no relation to the operation of the department and that no taxpayer money was taken from the agency's bank accounts. The department, which has about six members, is funded solely through bingo games, fund-raisers and private donations.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Notarianni said yesterday that prosecutors have inspected records from a six-month period during which they believe the embezzlement occurred. Notarianni said officials are retrieving additional bank records and could expand the probe.
Virginia State Police investigators were called in to help with the inquiry because Plaugher is so connected to Manassas's public safety department. She has been with the volunteer fire department for 15 years, was elected president of the agency in October 1997 and was a longtime city emergency dispatcher.
Plaugher was suspended from her fire department post and was fired from her dispatcher position, according to city officials.
In other indictments handed down by the grand jury:
Gary A. Yarbrough, 36, of Manassas, was indicted in the death of a co-worker in February. Officials say Yarbrough discovered that his wife was having an affair with the man, Raymond Hawkins, 51. Hawkins was shot once in the head outside his trailer home behind Johnson Tool & Die Co. Yarbrough led police to the shallow grave a few miles away where Hawkins was buried.
Yarbrough, who is charged with murder, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, told police he shot Hawkins while confronting him and has maintained that the killing was an accident. Yarbrough told police that he struggled with Hawkins during an argument and that his 9mm handgun inadvertently discharged. Yarbrough could face a maximum of life in prison if convicted.
Four men were indicted on arson charges for allegedly setting fire to a Yorkshire home belonging to one of the men.
Representatives from the county fire marshal's office testified before the grand jury Monday after an extensive investigation of a blaze that raged through a home at 8111 Oak St. on Oct. 17, 1998. The owner of the home, Norman F. Tauber, was one of the men indicted Monday.
David S. Jackson, Roger E. Bush and Steve Duvall also were indicted on charges of felony arson, which could carry a maximum of life in prison if the house was occupied at the time or 10 years if it wasn't.
Officials have not indicated whether anyone was in the house at the time of the blaze.
Prince William County Fire and Rescue spokesman Steve Strawderman said yesterday that the four men were indicted for either burning the house or hiring someone to do so, though he declined to elaborate on the investigation.