In September, Chantilly's James Robert "Bob" McClendon Jr. pleaded guilty to three financial crimes in which he defrauded a Centreville man out of $250,000.
Monday morning in Loudoun County Circuit Court, Judge Thomas Horne gave him a suspended, six-year prison sentence. But a condition of the suspension was that McClendon repay his debt in full, plus interest.
He now has a new job, for which he earns $104,000 a year and anticipates $16,000 in bonuses, for a total of $120,000. So to ensure that McClendon repays what he owes — and in a timely fashion — Horne ordered 55 percent of McClendon's gross annual income be garnished.
"I'm going to order that percentage of your income paid to this court," said Horne. "And if you don't do it — pack up your toothbrush, you're going to prison."
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office arrested McClendon in October 2004, charging him with forging signatures on three, separate promissory notes to receive money from a Loudoun business. As a result of his actions, he received a quarter of a million dollars from the Centreville man who owned that business.
McClendon worked for a Fairfax County company — Landmark Sports & Entertainment — and his duties included soliciting investors for multiple projects. One venture was a much-needed field house that would have been built next to the Cub Run Rec Center in a public/private partnership agreement with the Fairfax County Park Authority.
The field house was to contain facilities for a variety of sports — including indoor track and field — plus large-scale events such as conventions and graduations. But by summer 2004, everything had fallen through and the partnership agreement was dissolved.
The other projects entailed the management of two fields in Herndon used by Northern Virginia youth sports organizations primarily for football, lacrosse and field hockey.
After the Centreville man agreed to the $250,000 loan, he made McClendon — and others guaranteeing his repayment — sign a promissory note. But in reality, said the Sheriff's Office, McClendon forged the other shareholders' names to obtain the money under false pretenses for his own purposes.
It was a Loudoun case because McClendon gave the promissory note to the Centreville man on the premises of that man's Loudoun County business. And after an investigation, on Oct. 5, 2004, Loudoun charged McClendon with 11 financial crimes.
In March 2005, a Loudoun County grand jury indicted him for 10 of these offenses. Then on Sept. 12, most of the charges against him were dropped, in exchange for his guilty plea on three of them.
McClendon, 50, of the Sutton Oaks community, entered an Alford plea to forgery, uttering (passing a phony document as valid), and obtaining money by false pretenses. By doing so, he didn't admit guilt, but acknowledged the existence of enough evidence to convict him.
On Monday, Jan. 9, he returned to Loudoun County Circuit Court for sentencing. And Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Frank Buttery told Judge Horne that McClendon's crimes "had a serious impact" on all the victims.
Buttery said that, in his Victim Impact Statement written for the court, the Centreville man said what McClendon did "should not be viewed by the defendant as 'the cost of doing business,' and the commonwealth agrees. He's out $250,000 for what should have been a short-term loan."
The prosecutor said McClendon agreed to repay that amount at 6 percent interest — which were the original terms of the loan. Trouble is, said Buttery, the loan dates back to Sept. 25, 2003 and has now accumulated some $30,000 in interest owed, as well. In fact, the exact amount was later calculated at nearly $34,000 — making the amount owed by McClendon almost $284,000.
Buttery said McClendon expected to pay it off at a rate of about $21,000 a year. So, he told Horne, "That's going to take some time. But with his [annual salary], it seems that the defendant can pay more."
Besides that, he added, "There has to be some penalty imposed. He should get the message that, if a debt goes bad, there's no free ride. I ask you to consider a period of incarceration — based on the amount of money involved, the violation of trust and his criminal activity."
But defense attorney Stephen Sheehy said his client no longer had that money, and he explained to the court where it went. "Shortly after this happened, Mr. McClendon was ushered out of the corporation which he founded in 1999," said Sheehy. "$100,000 went to [one of the victims] for past-due salary, $50,000 was paid to an investor and $25,000 went to [the Centreville victim] to pay a pre-existing debt to the corporation for funds needed to run Redskins Park."
He said managing the West County Field House was to be the "pot of gold" for all those involved in bringing it to fruition but, sadly, it never came to pass. "In having known Mr. McClendon for 10-12 years, I can tell you that running a business was not his forte," said Sheehy. "He realizes he should never have signed that note, and he'll have to live with the felony conviction the rest of his life."
But that's not all. McClendon's also in legal trouble in Fairfax County. On June 13, 2005, police here arrested him, too, in connection with the same case. They charged him with two counts of embezzlement and two counts of fraudulent accounting, and he has a March 1 court date.
Sheehy said the Centreville victim reportedly called him and said, "If the $250,000 were paid off in advance, the Fairfax court case could go away. And McClendon got a loan from his father to do that, but he had a stroke, so it didn't go forward."
Meanwhile, Sheehy told the judge, "McClendon's boss has been working to secure the balance of the funding so he can pay off this debt, as soon as possible. McClendon can pay $20,000 today, and I have a check for that."
He said his client's been married for 20 years, is a good father and has no criminal record. "He's not living above his means and he's trying to get his life together," said Sheehy. "So what benefit could derive from putting him in jail? The state would best be served by keeping him on probation and holding his feet to the fire [so he can make restitution]."
The problem, he said, is that once "the business went south," things fell apart for McClendon. "If this were a football game, the foul that Mr. McClendon did was to sign the names of the others," said Sheehy. "He was under pressure and he made a mistake."
But Buttery wasn't buying what Sheehy was selling. "We take issue with much of what counsel said about [McClendon's] excuses," said the prosecutor. "A criminal act was committed by a man with no criminal record up until then. And it was committed upon [the victims] and the State of Virginia."
Furthermore, said Buttery, "It was nobody else's doing. I don't know anybody who's not under pressure every day. Nobody caused Mr. McClendon to do this, except Mr. McClendon. Now the court's priority is to make the victims as whole as possible, as soon as possible."
"But even if the defendant came forth with a check today for the whole amount, it would still not make [them] whole," Buttery told Judge Horne. "Their good names were impinged upon, and I ask you to sentence this defendant appropriately."
McClendon then stood and addressed the court. "I don't know what to say," he said softly. "I wish this had never happened. I know I did wrong. I'm not trying to make excuses, only to give an explanation. I humbly apologize to [the victims] and their families. This has been such a horrifying situation to deal with."
Horne, who was in a no-nonsense mood, replied in a loud, booming voice. Looking straight at McClendon, he said, "There are collateral consequences that go with a felony conviction in Virginia. According to the Victim Impact Statement, the victims believe you are a cheat and a thief — and those two names will go with you until you can correct what you've done."
"I sympathize with these victims," continued the judge. "All too often, people think — because they didn't [physically assault] anyone, it's not [as bad of a crime]. But these people have been harmed — and you're going to make it right. And if you don't, you're going to sit in prison."
Horne said McClendon must pay the restitution, or spend six years behind bars. "If you don't make the payments, you'll also come back and visit with me [in court]," he said. "And woe the day that happens."
He then sentenced McClendon to two years in prison for each of his three charges, but suspended all that time provided McClendon is on good behavior, pays the restitution with 6-percent interest and does community service.
The judge also placed him on three years supervised probation. He said McClendon's court costs of $1,065 must be made through community service, not cash, at the rate of $5/hour. Added Horne: "All cash payments will be applied toward the restitution."