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Prosecutors dismiss charges against former Arlington teachers union president, for now

Former Arlington Education Association President Ingrid Gant delivered remarks during a press conference in September 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County prosecutors are taking a step back from pursuing the embezzlement charges levied against former Arlington teachers union president, Ingrid Gant.

That decision, however, does not mean the case against Gant — who was ousted in the spring of 2022 after a 6-year tenure — is closed. The Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney says Gant’s case is serious and they are keeping their options open.

“Due to the scale of this alleged embezzlement, prosecutors are continuing to investigate the facts of this case and potential steps forward,” Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Deputy Chief of Staff Laura Birnbaum tells ARLnow.

Gant, 54, of Woodbridge, was arrested earlier this year and charged with embezzling more than $400,000 from the Arlington Education Association (AEA). An accounting firm discovered the alleged mishandlings after a 6-month audit and notified Fairfax County police detectives. They found Gant provided herself with multiple bonuses and used debit cards for unauthorized purchases.

Prosecutors dismissed the charges without prejudice, meaning they can refile charges at any time, explains June Prakash, the Arlington Education Association president who replaced Gant, noting Virginia does not have a statute of limitations for felonies.

“Nevertheless, this dismissal shows up as ‘final’ on the court docket because, when later charges are filed, it will be assigned a new case number in the court’s system,” she said.

Sources familiar with financial cases say that investigations are often time-consuming because prosecutors have to sort through a high volume of bank records and other documents to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a defendant committed a crime. This standard of proof is higher than what is required to arrest or charge someone with a crime.

With so many records to review, gathering evidence can take longer than court proceedings afford prosecutors. To avoid missing court deadlines, prosecutors will sometimes decline to prosecute in the short term, leaving open the option to re-file the same charges later, once all the necessary preparation is completed.

Prior to Gant’s ouster, union members said the organization had effectively stopped operating as the collective bargaining process was gaining speed. No one answered the phone, the website was down for two months and a key meeting leading up to an executive board election was canceled, raising doubts among members about the election’s fairness.

An attorney for the Virginia Education Association said in a memo that the Arlington union’s finances were in disarray and not communicated to members. Local leaders admitted the disorganization in a memo to members, saying AEA began the 2021-22 fiscal year without a budget and owed $732,000 in dues to the state and national unions.

Fairfax is handling Gant’s case because AEA headquarters is located in the Bailey’s Crossroads neighborhood of Fairfax County, just over the Arlington border.

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