One county employee was fired and three others were disciplined after financial irregularities were discovered at Arlington’s Senior Adult Travel Program, but no criminal charges were brought after a months-long investigation that one source says was “botched.”
The investigation started in fall 2011, after four improperly-opened bank accounts were discovered, but only came to light this month after one of disciplined employees appealed her punishment at a public Civil Service Commission hearing, which was attended by ARLnow.com.
The four accounts were opened, unbeknownst to county officials, at an Arlington PNC Bank branch in 2010. They were opened by an Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) employee who coordinated the Senior Adult Travel program, we’re told by a source with knowledge of the investigation.
The county-run senior travel program organizes dozens of trips per year for Arlington residents over the age of 55. The activities range from day trips to cultural performance, casinos and historic sites — on a new county-owned bus — to overnight trips to Europe and elsewhere. The program has two employees, an annual budget of $134,046 and recorded 2,738 trip reservations in Fiscal Year 2012, according to DPR Director Jane Rudolph.
The four accounts were used to deposit fees paid by travelers and to pay for senior travel program expenses, but were outside of the county’s direct control. By personally opening and controlling the account, the employee (who has not been officially identified) was able to conduct transactions — like paying for meals and other expenses on the trips — without the restrictions and hassle of the county’s internal financial controls.
“It was well-meaning employees who thought they were enhancing the experience of seniors,” Arlington County Director of Human Resources Marcy Foster told ARLnow.com. “They were delivering quick and efficient services, and they thought that was the way to do it.”
But operating the accounts, and cashing checks written out to Arlington County in accounts not controlled by the county, was a serious violation of county policy. After one of the accounts was discovered by an audit in late 2010, DPR management and budget analyst Celia Wong-Walsh was directed by then-DPR Director Dinesh Tiwari to close it.
For nearly a year, however, the account remained open. Wong-Walsh, the employee who appealed her punishment this month, told the Civil Service Commission that she could not force the bank to close the rogue account. She says the bank told her that the account could only be closed by the employee that opened it.
Wong-Walsh, who has since retired, had some of her unpaid leave stripped for failing to proactively work with the employee to close the account. She appealed the punishment, saying she did not have the legal authority to close the account and didn’t even know that more than one rogue account had been opened.
(The commission upheld the county’s disciplinary action but reduced the amount of leave that was taken away.)
The accounts were finally closed in September 2011, after the Arlington County Treasurer’s Office discovered them independently. The discovery was made when a $200 check written from one of the accounts bounced in August 2011, and the woman who it was written to contacted the treasurer.
A police investigation followed, but no criminal wrongdoing was found.
“We didn’t find any money missing,” said Foster. “There was no criminal activity.”
That point was disputed by a source with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke to ARLnow.com on the condition of anonymity. The source said up to $17,000 might have been missing from the accounts, but any solid evidence of that was lost because it took too long to investigate.
“The case was so screwed up that they couldn’t prosecute,” the source said.
A makeshift memorial was set up this week at the site of a fatal crash in Rosslyn.
Sami Ullah, a 21-year-old Leesburg resident, died Sunday when the BMW M5 he was driving hit a curb and flipped several times after speeding across the Key Bridge at up to 90 miles per hour. The car came to rest on its roof, in the bushes in front of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn.
Two passengers, ages 21 and 22 and both also from Leesburg, were seriously injured in the wreck.
A memorial was set up at the site, featuring dozens of flowers and a poster showing photos of Ullah with friends and family.
“Rest in paradise,” the poster said. Remnants from the crash and the emergency response — including muddy tire tracks, broken glass, a paramedic’s latex glove and the destroyed section of bushes — could still be seen at the site.
Ullah was preparing to graduate from Virginia Tech and pursue a Master’s degree in business, WJLA reported.
Arlington County police are still investigating the circumstances leading to the crash.
Hat tip to Ian Luria
(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) Arlington County police have arrested three suspects in the murder of an 87-year-old Arlington man.
On Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, police found Mack L. Wood, 87, dead in his home on the 3700 block of N. Wakefield Street, in the Old Glebe neighborhood. Three days later, police announced that Wood’s death was “suspicious.”
Today, the Arlington County Police Department announced that three people have been arrested in connection with Wood’s death, which is now suspected to be a homicide.
Among those arrested was Mack’s 47-year-old son. Police records show he was arrested in Hillsborough County, Florida, in the Tampa area, yesterday, Jan. 28.
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit has charged three suspects in connection with the suspicious death of an Arlington County resident. The investigation began when the incident was reported as an accidental death on the morning of October 13, 2012. The victim was identified as Mack L. Wood, 87, of Arlington, VA. His body was discovered inside his residence in the 3700 block of N. Wakefield Street by a family member.
After a thorough review of evidence, forensic examination, consultation with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and an extensive investigation, three suspects were identified and apprehended without incident. The son of the victim, Mack Leon Wood, Jr., 47, was located by the United States Marshals Service in the Tampa, FL area and has been arrested and charged with first degree murder. Jean Caleb Pierre, 32, and Sapien Edmonds, 29, both of Henrico, VA have also been charged with first degree murder. All three suspects are currently being held without bond.
Update at 11:15 a.m. — The all-clear has been given and emergency responders are leaving the scene.
Earlier: Arlington County firefighters and Metro Transit Police are on the scene of a hazardous materials investigation at the Pentagon City Metro station.
Initial reports suggest a series of nearly a dozen soda bottles filled with a yellow-ish liquid were found on the platform. Authorities are trying to determine whether the liquid is hazardous.
The station is still open during the investigation, with only a portion of the platform closed to foot traffic.
“The station is open,” WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel tells ARLnow.com. “They’ve just cordoned off a portion of the platform. Trains continue to service the station normally.”
Stessel said authorities are “investigating unattended items.”
Metro Transit Police officers with bomb sniffing dogs could also be seen searching the area around the station entrance,
The first incident started out as a mystery right out of a horror movie: several pools of blood were found this morning within a one block radius of Ray’s Hell Burger in the Rosslyn area.
One was found on the sidewalk along Wilson Boulevard, between N. Rhodes Street and N. Quinn Street.
Then, two more were reportedly found in the parking lot and elevator of an apartment building on the 1800 block of N. Quinn Street. Also at the scene: a bloody CVS bag with shampoo and cat food in it, according to a witness.
At first, police were baffled by the blood — no one had called the night before to report any nefarious acts in the area. One nearby resident even told police he had been up all night with the window open and hadn’t heard a thing. Eventually, though, investigators located the source of the gore: a man who lived in the apartment building in which the blood was found.
The man — who’s in his late 20s, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck — had a broken nose and a pair of black eyes. He didn’t remember much from the night before, but confirmed that he had been out drinking at nearby Red Hot and Blue, then left the restaurant and took a Lunesta sleeping pill. It was at that point that his memory got fuzzy. Police believe he got into some sort of altercation, but robbery was likely not the motive — he still had all his money and credit cards with him.
Police photographed and collected samples at the blood pools and then called the fire department to hose them down. Because the man couldn’t remember what happened, police don’t have much to go on in terms of finding a suspect.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Sternbeck said.
In Ballston, meanwhile, Halloween revelry took a dark turn when an intoxicated man hopped behind the bar of a restaurant on the 600 block of N. Glebe Road (in Ballston Common Mall) around 11:30 last night.
A female bartender confronted the man, at which time he grabbed a bottle of Amaretto and swung it at her, according to police. The bartender sustained a cut to her leg and was taken to Virginia Hospital Center. The man, identified as 30-year-old Jorge Zunagua of Alexandria, was detained by security, arrested and charged with malicious wounding.
Elsewhere in Arlington, a couple of instances of mischief were reported. One house was egged and one of its windows was somehow broken as a result, according to Sternbeck. He was unable to say where in Arlington the house was located.
In Virginia Square, pranksters rearranged the numbers on a gas station sign to suggest that regular unleaded gasoline was $7.43 per gallon. A passerby informed the manager of the station (Japanese Auto Service) of the prank.
Photo (bottom) courtesy James Webster
Arlington County Police, the county bomb squad and FBI agents are on the scene at the Woodbury Park Apartments, on the 2200 block of 11th Street N. near Clarendon, searching the apartment of Leon A. Traille, Jr.
Video of the search, courtesy of Fox 5, can be found below. So far, there’s no indication that the apartment building has been evacuated, but the investigators are still on the scene. Bomb technicians entered the apartment via the window.
Social media accounts linked to Traille, along with public records, suggest he’s an out-of-work computer programmer who has previously lived in Georgia, Oregon and New York City.
DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG
Update at 9:10 a.m. on 10/16/12 — The male victim is recovering from his injuries, while the female victim is still in critical condition in a medically-induced coma, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Police are still awaiting the result of a blood test on the driver before pressing charges. According to Sternbeck, witnesses told police that the driver did a “burn out” at the intersection before losing control of the truck.
The driver of a pick-up truck lost control and plowed into two cyclists on Four Mile Run Drive this afternoon, police said.
According to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, the driver was heading eastbound on Columbia Pike, made a right-hand turn onto Four Mile Run Drive, lost control of the truck, went over the median and struck the cyclists. The cyclists were biking in the roadway and not on the adjacent trail, Sternbeck said.
The victims, a man and a woman, were both in their 60s, Sternbeck said. The woman suffered “significant head trauma” and a broken pelvis. The man suffered broken ribs and punctured lungs. Both victims were transported to George Washington University Hospital in “serious” condition.
Charges are pending against the driver of the truck, who remained on scene after the accident, Sternbeck said. Four Mile Run Drive was closed between Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive for much of the afternoon while police investigated the accident.
An Arlington County Police cruiser slammed into a vehicle in Pentagon City while responding to a call this (Sunday) afternoon.
The incident happened around 3:30 p.m. The officer was heading westbound on Army Navy Drive, responding to a large fight in progress at the Sheraton National hotel (900 S. Orme Street), when a Saab pulled out in front of him from a Pentagon parking lot. Multiple witnesses told ARLnow.com that the cruiser had its lights and siren on, while the driver of the Saab had a green light. One witness said he was in his car with the windows up and could not hear the siren.
The cruiser and the Saab collided, sending the Saab careening into the eastbound lanes of Army Navy Drive. The cruiser wound up in the center of the intersection, facing an entrance to the Pentagon City mall parking garage.
Paramedics treated the female driver of the Saab at the scene for an apparent ankle injury. The officer did not require medical attention.
Eastbound Army Navy Drive was closed for at least an hour while police photographed the scene and took witness statements. No word yet whether any charges will be filed as a result of the accident.
The AWLA says the 4-6 week old Boxer puppy was found yesterday, Sept. 27, on the 400 block of N. Oakland Street, in the Ashton Heights neighborhood. The puppy was “very sick and severely injured,” the organization said.
Citing an ongoing investigation, AWLA Chief Operating Officer Susan Sherman declined to release details about the nature of the puppy’s injuries.
Anyone with information about the puppy is asked to call Animal Control at 703-931-9241.
File photo of three-month-old Boxer puppy by Almcwilliams via Wikipedia
The call for an accident involving a motorcycle and a vehicle near the intersection of Washington Blvd and Pershing Drive came in around 8:25 a.m. Washington Boulevard has been shut down for at least an hour while police took photos and investigated the accident. Those lane closures are expected to be lifted shortly.
No word yet on the condition of any of the victims.
Photo courtesy @jghazi
Update at 4:30 p.m. — The package has been found to be non-hazardous and the bomb squad is leaving the scene.
The Arlington County Fire Department bomb squad is investigating a suspicious package at Reagan National Airport.
Bomb squad personnel were called in to take a look at a package that was going through screening at the airport’s cargo area, according to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs. TSA agents identified the package as suspicious and felt that it “needed further investigation,” Gibbs said.
There has been no disruption to passenger air travel as a result of the investigation, according to Gibbs. She was unable to say what kind of cargo is typically shipped through the airport.
Update at 11:15 a.m. – The all-clear has been given and the hazmat team is packing up their gear.
Some roads are being shut down in the area of 2800 S. Randolph Street in Shirlington due to a hazmat investigation.
According to scanner traffic, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at 2800 S. Randolph received an envelope with a white powdery substance in it. The Arlington County Fire Department’s hazmat team is checking to see whether the substance is hazardous.
A similar investigation into a suspicious substance was conducted at the same office last Tuesday.
Update at 7:40 p.m. — The all-clear was given at about 5:00 p.m. and the scene has since been cleared.
The Arlington County Fire Department’s hazmat team is investigating a suspicious substance at a federal office in Shirlington.
Hazmat personnel are preparing to enter an office at 2800 S. Randolph Street, according to scanner traffic. They will be performing tests on the substance to determine whether or not it is hazardous.
Among the tenants listed for the 2800 S. Randolph Street building, also known as Randolph Square, is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
A woman was struck and seriously injured by a vehicle on Route 50 overnight, according to police.
“At 2:30 am, an adult female attempted to cross Route 50, just prior to the on-ramp to Washington Boulevard, after darting out from the tree line,” said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “The driver was unable to stop his vehicle in time and the pedestrian was struck. She remains in critical condition at GW Hospital.”
Several lanes of eastbound Route 50 were closed for an extended period of time while police investigated the accident. Those lanes had reopened by 5:30 a.m.
The incident happened just after 3:00 a.m. According to police, four people were posing for photos behind a vehicle parked in front of a hotel on the 2700 block of Jefferson Davis Highway when an unknown suspect fired between 3 and 6 gunshots. The hotel desk staff heard the shots and called police.
Responding units found a male victim shot in both ankles. The man was treated by medics and taken to George Washington University Hospital, according to police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Four bullet casings were found at the scene.
The victim and his three friends claimed that they had only heard the gunshots and had not seen the shooter. Sternbeck said there was “not much cooperation” from the group, and that the investigation is ongoing.
The incident is not believed to be connected to the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, Sternbeck said. The Hyatt Regency Crystal City hotel at 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway is the rally’s official hotel.