The one of the charges brought against a former Loudoun resident accused of embezzling money from a reward fund was forwarded to a grand jury Aug. 23, while the second charge is dropped.
Judge Dean S. Worcester ruled there was enough evidence to move forward with the larceny case against Roosevelt Henderson Jr., but the evidence did not support the second charge of money laundering.
Money laundering, Worcester said, requires that a person knowingly use money in a transaction that he or she knows came from illegal activity.
“There is nothing illegal about setting up a reward fund,” Worcester said about the money laundering charge. He then added, referring to the larceny charge, “What is illegal is if you take money meant for one purpose and use it for personal use.”
According to the Commonwealth's Attorney, Henderson allegedly took money from two different accounts he set up after Erica Heather Smith of Ashburn disappeared and her body was later discovered. The case remains unsolved.
One of the accounts was for a reward for anyone with information about the case. The second account was created for a foundation, intended to be used for a possible educational scholarship or other fund in Erica’s name.
DURING WHAT was a pretrial hearing, Henderson took the stand to explain his actions after his attorney, Raymond Kline, made a motion to dismiss. Kline said, since both accounts were set up by Henderson and therefore were owned by him, there was no larceny evident. Worcester said there was no evidence that Henderson had set up the account in question, prompting Kline to call Henderson as a witness.
On the stand, Henderson told the judge approximately $2,000 from the reward fund was in a safe at his mother’s house in Florida, where he is living. Henderson said he closed both the reward and the foundation accounts after several errors had been made by Middleburg Bank.
A deposit of an amount between $9,000 and $9,500 was incorrectly split between his personal, business and the reward fund accounts at Middleburg Bank, Henderson said. While he had intended to put some of his deposit into the reward account, the bank made a mistake with the amount, Henderson said.
“They put money in the wrong accounts,” he said. “I decided to close my personal account and the Erica Smith account because of the mistakes they were making.”
Henderson told the judge he did not know about the money that had been placed into the reward account until after he was charged with a crime.
THE PROSECUTOR placed into evidence the statements from both the reward and foundation accounts, which show that money was transferred out of both accounts prior to being closed. While on the stand, Henderson alluded to problems with his wife, with whom he is in divorce proceedings, and said she had access to all of the accounts he had at Middleburg Bank.
The prosecution presented Henderson with copies of several business checks, including payroll checks, which were written on the Erica Smith foundation account.
Henderson said he did not know which account those checks were coming from.
“I had no knowledge that it was the Erica Smith account,” he said. “I thought it was my personal account. I never looked at any statements.”
When the prosecution pointed out that the name of the memorial fund was written on the check, Henderson maintained that he did not know he had been writing checks on that account.
Prior to his ruling, Worcester asked how, if Henderson did not know the money from the $9,000 deposit had been placed in the reward account, he knew he could write those checks.
“Whose money was in this account?” Worcester asked. “Whose money did you think you were spending?”
Henderson said he did not think about the money because he believed he was writing checks from his personal account.
KLINE SAID the situation was not a criminal case, but instead was a series of serious bookkeeping errors.
“There is clearly a problem with the bank statements, but “There was no intent to commit larceny.”
Kline went on to add that Henderson cared more about the reward fund than anyone and was dedicated to raising money for Erica’s case.
The prosecutor said Henderson’s admission to writing checks on an account that clearly states it is the Erica Smith reward fund makes any claim of bad bookkeeping void and that Henderson’s pending divorce and ongoing money issues might be seen as motive for taking the money.
Worcester said it was the written checks and the closing of the reward account that indicated larceny.
“When you raise funds or receive funds on behalf of another person, the money still belongs to the people who made the donation,” he said. “If that purpose doesn’t exist anymore that money should go back to them. It doesn’t belong to the custodian [of the fund] anymore.”
The case is scheduled for the Sept. 11 grand jury and, in the case of an indictment, Henderson will appear in court for trial scheduling Sept. 12.