Former Executive Chef pleads no contest to embezzlement charges

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Governor's former chef pleaded no contest Wednesday to two misdemeanors involving food he took from the Governor's Mansion.

Todd Schneider, 52, entered the pleas, but maintains his innocence and does not admit guilt. Under the plea agreement presented in court, Schneider pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor embezzlement and was sentenced to six months on both charges. He will not serve any jail time. Those sentences will be suspended. He also agrees to pay $2,300 in restitution.

"The fact that there is a plea agreement in this case vindicates this office's decision to pursue the prosecution of embezzlement charges against Chef Todd Schneider," said Brian Gottstein in a statement from the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia. "That decision was made only after a thorough review of the evidence and was based on upholding the law."

The move avoids a trial that was scheduled for October. Schneider originally faced 4 felony counts of embezzlement. He was accused of taking taxpayer funded food from the mansion for his private catering business. He served as the chef at the mansion from 2010 until 2012— when State Police launched an investigation into kitchen operations.

In court documents Schneider claimed he was a whistle blower who was retaliated against. The case actually sparked the allegations of misconduct and a federal investigation, which is still underway, of Governor Bob McDonnell. Schneider told investigators the first family took undisclosed gifts from wealthy donor Jonnie Williams. Williams paid $15,000 for the catering at the 2011wedding of McDonnell's daughter. The governor did not disclose the gift because he said Virginia law does not require the reporting of gifts to immediate family members. It was later revealed that Williams gave the first lady, Maureen McDonnell, more gifts. He also gave money to the Governor's real estate company. Those gifts totaled more than $120,000 and have since been repaid.

Schneider also told investigators the first family took items from the kitchen. The governor has since reimbursed the state, writing a check for $2,400. Schneider also claimed the governor used public money to throw dinners for political allies and required him and other state employees to work the private political events.

The Governor's spokesperson has denied those allegations. "The court has accepted Mr. Schneider's pleas and his agreement with the Commonwealth and found him guilty of two counts of embezzlement," said Tucker Martin.  "Those are serious crimes. It is unfortunate these actions occurred and we are pleased that justice has been served."

The Governor's attorney also weighed in this afternoon. "Earlier today, Todd Schneider was found guilty of embezzlement and theft of state property," said Jason Miyares. "Mr. Schneider's prior denials of wrongdoing and his reckless allegations against the Governor's office and the McDonnell family have been completely discredited by today's criminal convictions. The Governor commends the excellent work of Commonwealth Attorney Greg Underwood in bringing this matter to a just conclusion."

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