HOPEWELL, VA. -- The key developer in a failed plan to revitalize downtown Hopewell has been indicted on 11 counts of embezzling money from the company for which he worked.
George Kuchta had promised three years ago to revive the downtown area by building a 116-room hotel and a huge factory outlet mall in an old manufacturing plant.
Kuchta's daughter, Michelle Turner, also worked for the firm. She was indicted on six counts of embezzlement.
Commonwealth's Attorney John Gould alleged that $56,000 was taken from Exeter Properties Inc.
The indictments also signal the apparent end of Exeter's involvement in Hopewell. The firm's president, Robert Varnon, said Exeter will pull out of the city and sell the former nylon factory and 42 acres that were supposed to have become the outlet mall.
Exeter fired Kuchta in November and turned over evidence that resulted in the indictments, Varnon said.
The status of Kuchta's other major area project, which he was developing independently of Exeter, was unclear. The project involved the old Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. plant in downtown Petersburg.
Each of the 17 counts of the indictments, which allege offenses between January and December 1986, charge that Kuchta or his daughter committed grand larceny by embezzling or fraudulently using money belonging to Exeter.
Gould charged that Kuchta embezzled more than $50,000. In one instance, he said, a check for more than $25,000 was "stuck into a personal account and spent."
Kuchta claimed that more than $7 million had been spent on renovations at the factory that was to become an outlet mall, but the projected opening date has been pushed back repeatedly.
Construction never started on the hotel because Exeter was unable to obtain financing after its original source of money, Old Court Savings & Loan Inc. of Baltimore, collapsed in 1985.