Reminder: Inauguration Closures Today — Many Arlington County facilities are closed today, Inauguration Day, and parking meters are not being enforced. Traffic is light around Arlington but drivers should expect closures and delays approaching the District. [ARLnow]
Arlington EOC Open — Arlington’s Emergency Operations Center is open and fully functional today for the inauguration. [Twitter]
Two Local Neighborhoods Among D.C.’s Hottest — Arlington Heights, between Columbia Pike and Route 50, and Yorktown in north Arlington, are No. 2 and 3 respectively on real estate firm Redfin’s list of the hottest Washington, D.C. area neighborhoods for 2017. [Redfin]
Schlow May Open Arlington Restaurant — Restaurateur Michael Schlow, the man behind Tico and The Riggsby in D.C., is “close to a deal” to open a new restaurant in Arlington. [Washington Business Journal]
School Bus Accident — There was a minor collision between two school buses at Randolph Elementary yesterday afternoon. According to initial reports more than a dozen students were evaluated by medics, but ultimately no injuries reported. [Twitter]
Schmuhl Sentenced for Home Invasion — Former lawyer Alecia Schmuhl was sentenced to 45 years in prison for her role in the home invasion attack on her former boss and his wife. Leo Fisher, a shareholder in Arlington law firm Bean, Kinney & Korman, was held captive by Schmuhl’s husband, who shot, stabbed and tased the couple during a three hour torture session. [NBC Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
An Arlington woman arrested earlier this year for a counterfeit handbag fraud has been sentenced to jail time.
Federal prosecutors say 41-year-old Praepitcha Smatsorabudh would buy luxury handbags online, then return high-quality knockoff handbags to the store while selling the real bag online, netting big profits in the process
She was sentenced today to 30 months in prison and more than $800,000 in forfeiture and restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
More from a press release:
Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, 41, of Arlington, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for running a multiyear scheme to defraud department stores across the country. Smatsorabudh was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $403,250.81 in forfeiture and the same amount in restitution to her victims.
Smatsorabudh pleaded guilty to wire fraud on August 3. According to court documents, Smatsorabudh bought brand name purses online and then returned in their place counterfeit purses, which were smuggled into the country from China. She then sold the authentic purses on Instagram for more than $2,000 each. In order to avoid detection, Smatsorabudh made fraudulent returns at over 60 department store locations in 12 states. In total, her scheme defrauded department stores out of more than $400,000.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer prosecuted the case.
David Black Convicted, Sentenced for Wife’s Murder — An Arlington County jury this week found Arlington Ridge resident David Black guilty of murdering his wife. Bonnie Delgado Black was found stabbed to death in her home, which was just blocks from her estranged husband’s house, on April 17, 2015. Yesterday the jury recommended that Black serve two life sentences. [NBC 4, WTOP]
County Board Ditches New Year’s Day Meeting — Eschewing a long-standing tradition of holding its first meeting of the year on New Year’s Day, the Arlington County Board yesterday voted unanimously to hold its 2017 organizational meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. “We still will start our year off with the community, but without forcing employees to give up their personal and family time on a holiday,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. [Arlington County]
Retail Space for WeWork in Crystal City — The County Board on Saturday voted to convert 440 square feet of the WeWork and WeLive building in Crystal City to ground floor retail space, at the request of WeWork. No word yet on what kind of a retailer may be moving in. [Arlington County]
More on Park Protests — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark has tackled the dual controversies of the baseball field fence in Bluemont Park (the Board acted on that yesterday, article coming soon) and the proposed Williamsburg Middle School athletic field lights. Clark concluded: “Popular sports for kids, peaceful green parks: competing Arlington virtues.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Evolent Health Stock Soars — As of 10 a.m. the share price for Ballston-based Evolent Health is up more than 12 percent today and nearly 70 percent for the year. The tech firm reported a narrower-than-expected loss and higher-than-expected revenue in the third quarter of 2016. [CNBC, Yahoo]
Board Approves Loan for Apartment Renovations — The Culpepper Garden affordable apartment complex for low-income seniors will receive needed renovations thanks to a $9.9 million loan from Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The County Board unanimously approved the loan yesterday. The renovations are expected to begin in the spring and will require tenants to temporarily move to other units on site while their units are renovated. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Ari P.
Melvin Perez-Bonilla was arrested in October and charged in connection to a string of sexual assaults in 2015.
Prosecutors say Perez-Bonilla attacked a 25-year-old woman while she was walking home alone in the Clarendon area early in the morning of July 25, 2015. On the evening Sept. 29, 2015, he attacked a 23-year-old woman who was walking home near Washington-Lee High School.
Perez-Bonilla was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 13 years suspended. He will be placed on the sex offender registry and will be deported upon serving his sentence, according to a press release.
“The Special Victims Unit and Tactical Unit’s efforts and a strong partnership with the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office have resulted in a predator being removed from the streets.” said Deputy Chief Daniel Murray, who heads ACPD’s Criminal Investigations Division. “These horrible offenses and attacks on our community will be relentlessly pursued by our detectives.”
Another sexual assault suspect, Santos Efrain Vasquez-Lopez, is set to go before a grand jury on April 25, according to police.
The full press release from the Arlington County Police Department, after the jump.
Candidates: APS Needs Better Community Engagement — Arlington Public Schools should be doing a better job of community engagement, both Democratic candidates for School Board said at a debate Friday night. Sharon Dorsey said that APS tends to listen to the “squeaky wheel” while those who don’t have the time, energy or connections to press their case are often largely ignored. Both Dorsey and Reid Goldstein both pointed to the rollout of iPads and MacBooks in schools as an example of an APS decision-making process they would have approached differently. [InsideNova]
Britt McHenry Returns to ESPN — D.C.-based sports reporter Britt McHenry is back at work at ESPN following the release of a video that showed her berating an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington. McHenry issued an apology and was suspended for a week. [New York Post]
More on I-66 Plans — Arlington officials have “softened” their stance on widening I-66, says Virginia’s transportation secretary, but County Board Chair Mary Hynes insists that the county will only consider widening as a last resort — and only after evaluating the impact of changes to I-66 ten years from now. [Washington Post]
County, APS Consolidate After-School Programs — Starting this fall, Arlington Public Schools will take over the previously county-run Charles Drew and Carver after-school programs. “The consolidation is expected to save $123,000 the first year and $160,000 annually after that,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Sentenced for Child Porn — Arlington resident Patrick Friedel, 29, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for the production and possession of child pornography. Friedel pleaded guilty in January, admitting to meeting five underage girls via social networking apps and coercing them to send him sexually explicit images. Prosecutors say Friedel also picked up one of girls and videotaped himself engaging in sadistic and masochistic sexual activity with her.
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
The man who killed a 24-year-old Alexandria resident last January in a drunk-driving collision in Rosslyn was sentenced to 12 years in prison this morning.
Aman Singh Lail was sentenced to 20 years, with nine suspended, for aggravated involuntary manslaughter, plus 12 months for driving under the influence. Lail pleaded guilty to the charges last summer.
The sentence was the maximum allowed upon the plea agreement, and Arlington Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo apologized to the family of the victim, Chowdhury Saqlain, saying no sentence could replace the son they lost.
“I don’t even know what to say to the family seated over here,” she said from the dais. “It’s completely unfair what’s happened to you. It’s wrong.”
Lail had previously been arrested twice and convicted once of DUI in Virginia. He had also been charged with multiple reckless driving and speeding charges, totaling more than 30 citations and arrests.
On Jan. 24, 2014, Lail was driving on Lee Highway at between 53 and 64 mph — the Commonwealth’s Attorney and Lail’s attorneys dispute the speed and blood-alcohol content of the case — when his Jeep Wrangler slammed into Saqlain’s sedan at the intersection of Ft. Myer Drive. Lail could not complete a field sobriety test and initially lied to detectives, telling them a friend “Moe” had been driving his SUV.
“He drove like a maniac, was outrageously drunk and displayed callousness after the fact,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jay Burkholder said during the hearing. Witnesses said he drank between four and five vodka and orange juice drinks and two tequila shots at a hookah bar in Fairfax County. “Because of perverted fate, the defendant is alive and [Saqlain] is dead.”
Lail’s mother testified that her son had been an alcoholic and told her the evening after the crash he didn’t remember what happened. In the 15 months since the crash, Lail’s attorney claimed he had grown up, and asked for leniency in the sentencing.
After the hearing, Saqlain’s family and their attorney, David Haynes of The Cochran Firm, held a press conference outside the courthouse and announced they would be pursuing a civil suit against Lail, asking for $20 million in damages.
Haynes said the family hopes Saqlain’s legacy is fewer drunk-driving deaths. They are also calling on state legislators to make bars and restaurants liable in drunk-driving accidents that occurred after over-serving their patrons.
“Without this law on the books, we are unable to hold these establishments responsible,” Haynes said.
During the sentencing hearing, Saqlain’s stepfather read testimony written by his wife — the victim’s mother — who was quietly sobbing in the front row.
“There will be no more birthdays, he will always be 24,” he read. “My heart aches knowing he had no warning, no ability to prepare. He couldn’t say goodbye.”
Benjamin Andruss, who pleaded guilty in October to hitting a pedestrian while drunkenly driving the wrong way on Wilson Blvd in Clarendon, has received a jail sentence.
Andruss will spend 9 months in jail, after Arlington Circuit Court Judge Daniel Fiore handed down a 5 year sentence, with all but the 9 months suspended.
Andruss was also ordered to pay restitution of $70,000, perform 100 hours of community service and spend 5 years on supervised probation — all while remaining sober and submitting to random testing.
During the sentencing, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Josh Katcher said the case was not one of somebody having one too many drinks at dinner and getting pulled over. A friend had urged Andruss not to drive after he consumed 4-5 beers and three glasses of whiskey at a Ballston bar, but he ignored the friend’s pleas and proceeded to drive recklessly through crowded streets.
The pedestrian Andruss struck, meanwhile, suffered debilitating injuries as a result of the crash.
“Mr. Andruss… overindulged, was told not to drive, did so anyway, ended up driving the wrong way down Wilson Blvd, and caused [the victim] to suffer permanent impairment,” Katcher said. “After a period of incarceration, Mr. Andruss will start to put this behind him. [The victim] will never be able to do so.”
“Cases like this truly reveal how serious this community takes drunk driving,” Katcher told ARLnow.com. “The judge’s decision to depart from the sentencing guideline” — which called for only probation — “hopefully sends a strong signal to the community.”
Details about the crash, from our previous article:
The crash happened between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12. Prosecutors say Andruss had just left First Down Sports Bar in Ballston, where he had consumed 4-5 beers and three glasses of whiskey while watching afternoon football games. A friend encouraged him to take a cab, but Andruss insisted on driving.
Andruss drove from the Ballston Common Mall parking garage to Clarendon, revving the engine of his Mercedes-Benz at stop lights and “speeding the whole way,” prosecutors said. At the intersection of Wilson, Clarendon and Washington Blvds, he again revved his engine at the stop light, then accelerated straight through the intersection when the light turned green.
Andruss sped the wrong way down Wilson Blvd, past Spider Kelly’s and other bars. His Mercedes ran up on the sidewalk, striking the side of the Clarendon War Memorial. In his path was a pedestrian, a man around 30 years old who works for the U.S. Department of Energy.
The pedestrian tried to dive out of the way, but Andruss struck a parked car, which then struck the pedestrian. The man regained consciousness in the middle of the street.
A former Virginia Hospital Center employee has been sentenced to twelve years in prison for raping a patient.
Roy Anthony Jones, 31, was working as a CT scan technician on Jan. 13, 2014, when the crime happened. Prosecutors say he had sex with an unconscious 37-year-old woman who had been brought in for alcohol intoxication. When the woman came to, she remembered someone having sex with her after the CT scan and reported the incident to police.
Jones, a D.C. resident, pleaded guilty in July.
On Friday, a judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison followed by supervised probation.
Summers and Soccer — Summers Restaurant in Courthouse, set to close after Dec. 31, is being eulogized as the Washington area’s premier soccer bar. Though holding out hope for a “miracle,” owner Joe Javidara says he is being forced to close due to financial woes. With more international soccer games available via cable and at other, newer bars, business at Summers has “dropped… off the cliff.” [Washington Post]
Moran Objects to Killing Birds Near Airports — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) wants airports, like Reagan National, to deploy new avian radar technology and stop the practice of euthanizing birds that live near airports. NBC4’s I-Team reports that more than 100,000 animals, including birds, have been “chased away” from the runways at Reagan, Dulles and BWI, to reduce the risk of animal strikes. [NBC Washington – WARNING: Autoplay video]
Arlington Contractor Settles Civil Claim — Arlington resident Keith Hedman, 55, has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle civil claims related to a fraud sceme. The government sued Hedman, the CEO of security contracting firm Protection Strategies, Inc., alleging that he fraudulently obtained $31 million worth of government contracts intended for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses. Last year Hedman pleaded guilty to criminal charges. [U.S. Attorney’s Office]
Arlington Woman Sentenced for Sex Trafficking — Arlington resident and Peruvian national Ruth Antuanet Miller, 35, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for leading a sex trafficking company. Miller pleaded guilty last year to charges that she led a criminal enterprise that prostituted women at hotels and motels around Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and in Fairfax County. On Dec. 19, Miller was sentenced to 84 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $341,437 in restitution.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Wilson Blvd Sidewalk Improvements Delayed — Arlington County Board members were apologetic on Saturday after a resident complained about the state of sidewalks along Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont area. The first phase of an improvement project, which will only consist of repaving and restriping the road, is now not slated to take place until the spring. County leaders promised to try to implement the second phase, which will actually improve the sidewalks, sooner rather than later. [InsideNova]
Bar to the Rescue in Crystal City? — Crystal City property owner Vornado hopes Highline, a new bar coming to the neighborhood, will help its growing tech community there after work. Vornado is trying to restyle Crystal City — which has lost government tenants for millions of square feet of office space, as a result of BRAC — as a tech hub. [Washington Post]
Neighborhood Conservation Projects Approved — A $2.5 million slate of four neighborhood improvement projects was approved by the County Board on Saturday. The projects include three in north Arlington and one in south Arlington. [Arlington County]
Bank Robber Sentenced — A D.C. man who robbed two Wells Fargo banks in Arlington has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced. James Link, 57, was accused of robbing a Wells Fargo branch on Nov. 25, 2013, injuring an elderly woman in the process, and a branch on Dec. 31, after which he and an alleged accomplice were arrested by FBI agents who were waiting outside. [U.S. Dept. of Justice]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Arlington Circuit Court Judge Daniel S. Fiore II sentenced Mack Wood, Jr. on Tuesday to life in prison. The 49-year-old Wood, Jr. pled guilty for the murder of his 87-year-old father.
Wood, Jr. was one of three people arrested last year in the murder-for-hire case. Mack L. Wood was found dead in his Arlington home in October 2012 from what first appeared to be an accident. However, an investigation by the Arlington County Police Department and the Henrico County Police Department uncovered evidence leading to the arrests of Wood, Jr., as well as Jean Caleb Pierre and Sapien Edmonds. All three men lived in Henrico, VA.
Prosecution documents state Wood, Jr. agreed to pay Pierre and Edmonds $25,000 each to kill his terminally ill father. The three began conspiring in April 2012, according to prosecutors, and made a failed attempt to kill Wood in July 2012. They kept in contact and came up with a new plan, which they successfully carried out in October 2012 when prosecutors say Edmonds beat and strangled Wood. Edmonds reportedly then positioned the body to appear as if the victim died from a fall down the stairs.
“It was horribly tragic for the Wood family. Mr. Wood was 87 years old and his wife had died a number of years earlier. They had adopted both of their children. He gave Mack Wood, Jr. his name, and they raised and provided a very good home for them,” assistant commonwealth’s attorney Andrew Parker told ARLnow.com. “Mr. Wood lived by himself and had been diagnosed months earlier with terminal cancer and was very ill. But because of these three men, he died at the hands of a stranger in his own home, by himself.”
Judge Fiore sentenced Wood, Jr. to life in prison for capital murder and an extra 20 years for the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. He is not eligible for parole under Virginia law.
Pierre and Edmonds both are waiting for their sentencing. As part of a plea deal, they agreed to provide information to authorities and therefore will be sentenced for first degree murder instead of capital murder. That means they will receive prison time, but not a death sentence.
Wood, Jr. has claimed his father abused him, but prosecutors have not been able to find any evidence to corroborate the claims. Evidence indicates Wood, Jr.’s motive was to inherit his father’s money. Wood, Jr. told Pierre he forged his father’s name on a contract to sell timber on land his father owned, and that he had received money from the sale. Wood, Jr. said he was afraid his father would reduce or eliminate his inheritance when he found out about the forged contract.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Wood, Jr. gave a lengthy statement. Part of his statement involved apologizing to his sister, Laura Kopack. She read her own statement, in which she explained what a blow this was to her and the family.
Voting Starts in Congressional Primary — Polls opened at 6:00 this morning in the seven-way race for the Democratic nod to replace Rep. Jim Moran. The polls will close at tonight 7:00. The candidates seeking the nomination are Don Beyer, Bill Euille, Lavern Chatman, Adam Ebbin, Patrick Hope, Derek Hyra and Mark Levine. [Washington Post]
Few Surprises in Howze Speech — County Board candidate Alan Howze addressed the local Democratic faithful at the Arlington Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Saturday. Howze talked about school overcrowding and global warming in the speech, which was described as “low-key,” and said little that would suggest a significant change in strategy since his special election loss to independent candidate John Vihstadt. [InsideNova]
County Employee Sentenced for Taking Bribes — Francisco Hernandez, who worked in Arlington County’s Dept. of Motor Vehicles Select office, has been sentenced to two years in jail after being convicted of taking bribes in connection with his job as a tax assessor supervisor. [FBI Washington Field Office]
Crystal Car Festival This Weekend — In honor of Father’s Day, Crystal City will hold its second annual Crystal Car Father’s Day Auto Festival from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 15. The free event features cars on display, live music, kids activities and a beer/wine garden. [Crystal City]
Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi
H-B Woodlawn Administrator Dies — H-B Woodlawn assistant principal Dr. Mary McBride died unexpectedly on Monday, May 26. McBride, who started her career at H-B Woodlawn as a teacher, was 70. [Legacy.com]
Torrez Sentenced to Death — Convicted rapist and murderer Jorge Torrez was formally sentenced to death Friday. The former Marine strangled a female sailor to death on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in 2009. He is also accused of killing two young girls in Illinois on Mother’s Day 2005. [Stars and Stripes]
Euille and Levine: No Regrets — At a debate Friday at a meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, congressional candidates Bill Euille and Mark Levine couldn’t come up with an answer when asked what policy positions they’ve taken that they’ve later regretted. Patrick Hope and Adam Ebbin both regret supporting mandatory minimum sentencing, Don Beyer regrets opposing same-sex marriage in the 1990s, and Lavern Chatman said she regrets opposing medical marijuana. [InsideNova]
Testicle Festival Held Saturday — The 10th annual Testicle Festival was held in Virginia Square on Saturday. One attendee said of the Rocky Mountain Oyster tasting: “People who don’t come here and don’t try the balls aren’t living a full life.” [WTOP]
Stormwater Management Ordinance Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a new stormwater management ordinance. The ordinance complies with strict EPA standards intended to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. It’s expected to raise the county’s costs related to stormwater management. [Arlington County]
Gymnastic Boosters Speak Out About Rising Fee — Youth gymnasts and their parents spoke out at Saturday’s County Board meeting about rising fees for out-of-county gymnasts. Starting July 1, the cost for using county facilities is rising dramatically for members of the Arlington Aerials gymnastics team who do not live in the county. [InsideNova]
VHC Has High C-Section Rate — Virginia Hospital Center has one of the highest C-section rates for low-risk deliveries, according to Consumer Reports. [NBC Washington]
Fmr. Arlington Resident Charged in Drug Scheme — Two former Arlington residents have been sentenced after being convicted of running an illegal pharmaceutical business from their Crystal City apartment. Syed “Farhan” Huda, 39, was sentenced to three years in prison and $3.4 million in restitution. his wife, Deeba Mallick, 37, was sentenced to nine months in prison. [U.S. Department of Justice]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
Death Sentence Recommended for Torrez — A federal jury on Thursday recommended that former Marine Jorge Torrez be put to death for the 2009 murder of Navy Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. A judge is scheduled to formally sentence Torrez on May 30. [Washington Post]
Van Doren Picks Up Endorsements — Arlington School Board candidate Nancy Van Doren announced over the weekend that she has picked up the endorsements of the Arlington Education Association PAC, which represents Arlington teachers, and of current School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.
Republicans Pick Congressional Nominee — Marine Corps veteran and former congressional staffer Micah Edmund has captured the GOP nomination for congress in the race to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). Edmund won 51 percent of the vote in a party convention held Saturday at Bishop O’Connell High School. [InsideNoVa]
Autistic Boy Punished at Randolph Elementary — The mother of a 7-year-old Randolph Elementary student is crying foul after a teacher moved his desk as punishment for bad behavior. The boy has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and his mom is trying to get him transferred to a different elementary school. [WUSA 9]
Wardian Wins Big Sur Marathon — Six days after his impressive Boston Marathon performance, elite distance runner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian has won the Big Sur International Marathon with a time of 2:27:45. Wardian’s time set a record for the 40-and-over age group in the Big Sur marathon and he also set a record for best combined time in the Boston and Big Sur marathons, with 4:51:17. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]
Problems for Potomac Yard Metro — The location of a future Potomac Yard Metro station is in doubt after the National Park Service raised concerns about the station’s visibility from the George Washington Parkway. Changes to the station’s location are expected to cost more than $50 million and delay the project by three years. [WAMU]
Route 50 Courthouse Interchange Update — Several long-term closures associated with the Route 50 Courthouse interchange project have been lifted. Among the routes that have reopened by VDOT are: 10th Street to eastbound Route 50, and Courthouse Road and N. Fairfax Drive to westbound Route 50.