DGIF officials indicted: Virginian-Pilot
Three former Va. game officials indicted over African safari
By WARREN FISKE, The Virginian-Pilot
© September 21, 2007
Three former top officials at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have been indicted on charges of misusing state funds to buy supplies for a 2004 African safari, according a spokesman for the a ttorney g eneral's office.
A Richmond multi -jurisdictional grand jury indicted William L. Woodfin Jr., the agency's former director, and former game wardens Michael G. Caison and Terry C. Bradbery on Sept. 12, the attorney general's office announced Thursday.
"All the charges are related to purchases made on state credit cards prior to the trip to Africa in 2004," said Tucker Martin, spokesman for the a ttorney general's office.
The three indicted men were criticized in a 2005
audit for running up $11,532 on state credit cards to supply a two-week safari they went on with then-board Chairman Dan Hoffler, a Virginia Beach developer. Hoffler eventually reimbursed the state.
Hoffler resigned his post after the release of the 52-page audit, which said the agency was rife with cronyism, waste and misuse of state property. Woodfin, Caison and Bradbery retired.
No other indictments are being sought in the case, said William C. Mims, chief deputy attorney general.
Bradbery plans to plea not guilty, said his attorney, Murray Janus.
"I'm unaware of any laws that have been violated," he said. "The state is not out any money."
Woodfin's lawyer, Joseph Owen, said he was surprised by the indictments. He said Woodfin "had permission from superiors to do everything he did."
An attorney for Caison did not return phone calls.
The indictments end a long silence over the state's response to allegations of abuse at the agency since the audit was turned over to law enforcement authorities in May 2005.
In late 2005, Republican Bob McDonnell, campaigning for attorney general, accepted $25,000 in contributions from Hoffler. McDonnell, after his inauguration the following January, ceded authority on game department matters to Mims. Several outdoor enthusiasts questioned whether the office was letting the investigation slide.
Hoffler, in a written statement Thursday, said he was "extremely disappointed" by the indictments and that he cooperated with the investigation.
"I sincerely hope this does not tarnish the reputation of the department, which is without question one of the best in the nation," he wrote.
The indictments say the misuse of state funds occurred from Sept. 1, 2003, through Oct. 31, 2004. During that time, the audit documented an array of state credit card charges made or sanctioned by Caison, Woodfin and Bradbery.
Many of the expenses were first disclosed by The Virginian-Pilot in early 2005.
On Sept. 3, 2004, Woodfin had an employee purchase an international phone, which was taken to Africa and used to make calls to Virginia, including the travelers' homes, at a cost of $1,472.
In August and September of that year, Bradbery bought three lightweight hats, food, batteries, film, bags, tape, car wax, towels, medicines, snacks, three vaccinations shots, two pairs of shoes, three jackets and four pairs of pants. The total cost was $2,287.
From July through September, the agency bought - at Bradbery's or Caison's request - four bullet-proof double rifle cases, four walking sticks, 20 combination locks, three digital cameras, neck pillows, duffle bags and carry-on luggage. The total cost was $7,354.
Caison, in early September, bought four DVD players and four binocular straps for $419.
Hoffler, according to the audit, came up with idea to go on the safari, saying he wanted the agency's top officials to learn about conservation efforts in Africa.
Under Virginia law, only people with direct access and custody of public money can be charged with misusing state funds. Mims said he will ask the General Assembly next year to broaden the law to include people who do not have direct access to public funds but knowingly participate in their abuse.
The audit that led to the indictments was prompted by complaints filed with the Virginia State Employee Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline in late 2004. The abuses were uncovered by Lee Albright, a Navy retiree who lives in Nelson County.
"This is a good day for the game department," Albright said Thursday. "I don't take any personal satisfaction in seeing these guys getting indicted, but this is a big step in removing a black cloud from the department."
Warren Fiske, (804) 697-1565,
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