DGIF officials indicted: Washington Post
3 Ex-Game and Fisheries Officials Indicted
Men Charged With Misusing State Funds; Agency's Finances Questioned for Years
By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 21, 2007; Page B06
RICHMOND, Sept. 20 -- The former director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and two other former department employees have been charged with misusing state money, according to indictments unsealed Thursday.
The indictments, handed up Sept. 12 by a grand jury in Richmond Circuit Court, follow several investigations into a department that has faced years of accusations of improper spending, questionable travel expenses and retaliation against whistle-blowing employees. Such public corruption indictments are rare in Virginia government.
"These indictments by the grand jury reflect the Commonwealth's continuing commitment to thoroughly investigate the prior financial activities" at the department, Chief Deputy Attorney General William C. Mims said in a statement.
Few details were available about the allegations, which center on former director William L. Woodfin Jr., Terry C. Bradbery, former chief of the agency's law enforcement division, and Michael G. Caison, former assistant chief of the division. The 500-employee department is responsible for the management of inland fisheries, wildlife and recreational boating.
A previously released state audit in 2005 revealed that the three spent more than $11,000 of state money on hunting gear for an African safari. The money has since been repaid.
State Internal Auditor John A. Spooner called the allegations in the audit among the most serious in recent history in Virginia, which has a national reputation as a well-run state.
Spooner, who was hired after the 2005 audit was conducted, said the case is high-profile because it involves department leaders and a substantial amount of money.
After the audit, the department underwent several changes so that state officials would have more control over money, equipment and travel. The attorney general's office also plans to propose legislation during next year's General Assembly session to help safeguard state money.
Woodfin and the agency's former board chairman, Dan Hoffler, a wealthy Virginia Beach developer, resigned in 2005 after the 50-page audit accused department officials of waste, cronyism, misuse of state property and employee retaliation.
Woodfin, Hoffler, Bradbery and Caison went on a two-week African safari in September 2004.
Hoffler paid for the trip, but the audit questioned the purchases made for the trip, totaling $11,532, which were charged to state credit cards.
Hoffler said in a statement Thursday that he was "extremely disappointed" to learn about the indictments, adding: "I have personally cooperated with the Attorney General's investigation and will continue to provide any information they may require. I sincerely hope this does not tarnish the reputation of the department, which is without question one of the best in the nation."
The audit also accused the four men of an appearance of a conflict of interest in several instances:
Hoffler gave the other three men $50,000 in gifts in 2004. Two boats and an all-terrain vehicle owned by the agency were kept at Hoffler's waterfront home on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Game wardens were assigned to provide security at an annual dove hunt at his estate. And two agency employees, including Bradbery, were cited in the operation of a personal business on state time.
"This issue is now a matter for the courts," James W. Hazel, chairman of the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, said in a statement.
The audit stemmed from complaints to the state employee fraud, waste and abuse hotline in 2004.
The trip was planned as a state-funded visit to study game-conservation policies in Zimbabwe but was rejected by Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr.
After the audit, the state attorney general's office, with the Virginia State Police and Richmond commonwealth's attorney's office, began investigating thousands of pages of records from 1999 to 2004. The charges in the indictment stem from 2003 and 2004.
Bradbery and Caison were placed on leave, then retired in spring 2006.
Woodfin and Caison were indicted on two counts and Bradbery on one. If convicted, they face felonies punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000 for each charge. Each had an initial appearance before a judge in Richmond this week and was released on personal recognizance and ordered to appear in court Nov. 5.
The men are being prosecuted jointly by the state attorney general's office and the Richmond commonwealth's attorney's office. Mims, the chief deputy attorney general, declined to comment beyond his statement. Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael N. Herring did not return a phone message left at his office.
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.
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