Charlottesville Breaking News

Dumpling v. dumpling: No buffer between buffets?

The recently opened Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet on Route 29 may have some curious company in the near future, as a place called Ultimate Buffet has laid claim to the former Charlottesville Power Equipment building next door. Sources says it's going to be, yes, a big Asian-style buffet restaurant.

How could this happen?

It may have to do with our two-jurisdiction local governments, as the Hibachi Grill happens to be in Charlottesville, while the old Power Equipment building stands in Albemarle County. Who's gonna say no to the prospect of sales and meals tax revenue for their fair municipality?

Meanwhile, across the street sits the former Asian Buffet Restaurant building owned now by the UVA Foundation (that has sat vacant for nearly six years), a seemingly perfect place (and a place Peter Chang wanted) for an Asian buffet restaurant.

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Dust and promises: Amtrak lot finally getting paved

Good-bye dust devils and potholes. More than six years after the owners of Charlottesville Union Station first promised to pave the property's dusty parking lot, construction crews have finally gone to work, ending the public feud between the owners and some West Main Street business owners, who had called the lot a health hazard and a “blight on the Midtown landscape," and who were on the verge of filing a lawsuit.

"It's about time," says Delegate David Toscano, who made paving the so-called Amtrak lot one of his top priorities for the new year. "Not only will this spruce up the area and make it more attractive to businesses, but it will increase our leverage on the State to make sure money is available for continued rail service."

Indeed, since expanded rail service came to the town–- thanks in large part to the efforts of Meredith Richards and her advocacy group, the Piedmont Rail Coalition– Union Station has gained new prominence as a transportation hub. According to Amtrak, the station served 91,707 passengers last year, over 40,000 more than predicted for 2010, making it the fifth busiest st...

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Wrong caption on fire story

Due to a production error, the photo of the burned-down barn shown on page 13 of last week's issue was given the wrong caption. The online version of the story had the right captions.

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Final tally: Officials seek $24 million more from Dowdell's minions

With the prosecution winding down its decade-long work on the Terry Dowdell Ponzi scheme– one of the world's largest until Bernie Madoff took such crimes to new depths– prosecutors and investigators took a victory lap of sorts Friday at the Charlottesville federal courthouse. They announced an effort to seek more than $24 million in restitution atop the $34 million recovered by a quick-thinking Securities and Exchange Commission official's account freeze.

"It's a great message case," said Steve Levine, the SEC official who reportedly froze Dowdell's accounts nearly ten years ago, just a day before a pack of wire transfers were about to move the money to Dowdell and fellow conspirators. Levine notes that most of the convicts were brokers, those whose training is designed to prevent them from ever claiming that they, too, were duped.

The most recent broker to fall is Brigit "Gitte" Mechlenburg. A now 63-year-old Dane who'd been working in Massachusetts, Mechlenburg had already been barred by the SEC from the investment industry when she allegedly rounded up about $13 million from investors in what Dowdell and others had been calling their "Vavasseur" program.

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Trial set: Eric Abshire pleads not guilty to wife killing

The Greene County man accused of killing his wife and staging her death as an automotive hit-and-run pleaded not guilty to first degree murder at his arraignment Thursday, March 3 in Orange County Circuit Court.

Thirty-six-year-old Eric Dee Abshire, who has been incarcerated at the Central Virginia Regional Jail since his December 17 arrest, spoke clearly as he entered the plea before Judge Daniel Bouton. He agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial, giving his court-appointed attorney, Charlottesville-based Charles Weber, additional time to scrutinize several boxes of evidence collected by the prosecution during the four-year investigation into the November 2006 death of 27-year-old kindergarten teacher Justine Swartz Abshire.

Acknowledging the complexity of the case, Judge Bouton set aside two weeks for trial, October 12-26. He also granted the defense's request for access to transcripts from an investigative grand jury, but warned Weber that only he and his staff get access to the top-secret testimony.

At a February 10 hearing at which Abshire was denied bond, Commonwealth's Attorney Diana Wheeler claimed "many" witnesses reported fear of retribution if they testified before the grand jury. One in particular, Wheeler said...

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