Plea: Former ABC employee embezzled $238,600 - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Plea: Former ABC employee embezzled $238,600

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A former state employee could spend the next ten years in prison for stealing public money. Steven Hammond, who used to work for Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control, pleaded guilty to federal embezzlement charges.

Almost $250,000 of tax money was supposed to go to educational programs to combat underage drinking; instead, the former ABC employee admits in a plea deal the money was funneled to him.

Hammond, 29, was the education coordinator for ABC, handling the Youth Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention program, a project that works with Virginia teens to keep their schools and communities drug and alcohol free. It uses state and federal funds.

According to court documents, instead of going to that project, the funds were funneled right into Hammond's pockets.  Hammond admits to preparing false paperwork for that program; and those documents led ABC to issue checks to his friends. Then, the records say Hammond's friends cashed those checks and returned the money to him.

In total, 77 fraudulent checks added up to $238,600. The records also say Hammond gave a cut of the money to most of the people who helped him.

Since some of those funds involved federal grants, even the FBI got participated in the investigation and formally charged Hammond with theft from a program receiving federal funds.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring calls it a simple case of greed and abuse of the public trust. It was discovered through an internal ABC audit in the spring of 2013.

Since then, Hammond, who started working for the agency a decade earlier, was placed on leave and financial safeguards were instituted.

Hammond was released from custody after the deal was approved in court, but he faces a maximum of ten years in prison. He is scheduled to learn his fate in January.

Right now, Hammond is the only person charged in this case. The Attorney General's office would not say anything about any other charges for the people involved.

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