Charlottesville Breaking News
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.
The trial for the assault charge against attorney Frank Buck for throttling his client in court ended quickly March 3 in another courtroom, without the former mayor getting hauled off to jail. Instead, Buck and his former client, Milton Leo John, a 53-year-old airline pilot who faced a separate charge for using abusive language, settled their differences with a civil settlement, and the criminal charges were dismissed.
The case rocked the Charlottesville legal community when the 65-year-old Buck, who served as mayor from 1980-1988, was arrested last fall for misdemeanor assault, which carries up to 12 months in jail.
"I snapped," Buck admitted to Hook reporter Courteney Stuart after the November 11 incident.
The case caused a cascade of legal calisthenics including seating a pair of special out-of-town prosecutors as well as a visiting judge after Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman and General District Judge Bob Downer recused themselves, each citing Buck's long tenure practicing law in Charlottesville.
The throttling took place November 10 during a recess in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, where Buck was representing John on a child support issue and the discussion turned to a previous domestic abuse charge that John wanted expunged. According to John's complai...