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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Robert Jeffrey; search warrant provides details of embezzlement allegations

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Robert Jeffrey; search warrant provides details of embezzlement allegations


An eviction lawsuit against Roanoke City Council member Robert Jeffrey has been dismissed, but details have newly come to light regarding the embezzlement charges he currently faces, with court documents alleging he is responsible for "at least $50,000" in missing or misused funds.

Jeffrey was sued last month on behalf of the Northwest Neighborhood Environmental Organization, which owns the Ninth Street Northwest property where his publishing business also had its offices.

The NNEO's eviction claim alleged breach of lease but gave no explanation for the request.

At a hearing Thursday in Roanoke General District Court, Jeffrey's lawyer, Melvin Hill, moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the NNEO's eviction filing included no allegations of unpaid rent and, as such, was insufficient.

Judge Jacqueline Talevi concurred, telling NNEO board president Carroll Carter: "You have to plead your cause of action, and you haven't done that."

Talevi granted Hill's request to dismiss but said Carter could refile his claim with the required information if he chose. 

Carter told the judge that Jeffrey has already moved out and that he is not seeking any unpaid rent — he simply wants Jeffrey to return the keys to the property so his tenancy termination can be finalized. 

Jeffrey was not present at Thursday's hearing, and Hill did not immediately return a phone message regarding the issue of the keys. 

The NNEO is also at the center of Jeffrey's other pending legal issues.

Earlier this month, he was indicted on two counts of embezzling from the Roanoke housing improvement nonprofit while he was in a position of trust with the civic group.

The allegations are that the thefts occurred between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021.

A police search warrant made public this week in Roanoke Circuit Court said that on May 26 of this year, Carter filed a police report alleging embezzlement by Jeffrey during the time he was managing NNEO properties and had access to several of the organization's bank accounts. 

"Mr. Jeffrey made numerous unauthorized bank transactions over the course of several months," the warrant claimed. "These transactions consisted of numerous unauthorized cash withdrawals totaling at least $50,000, unauthorized debit card purchases and unauthorized checks."

The search warrant sought and obtained financial records from a SunTrust Bank account from between Jan. 1, 2020, and June 1, 2021, but it did not identify the holder of that account. 

The affidavit to the warrant also references a search of Jeffrey's residence late last month, which reportedly led to the seizure of a deposit ticket for $4,059.86, made in March to the SunTrust account in question. 

"The transaction amount is consistent with other unauthorized transactions and expenditures that Mr. Jeffrey was making during the time funds were being embezzled," the document claimed.

Jeffrey, 52, began his city council term Jan. 1 and has said he plans to contest the charges against him and to remain on the council. He declined further comment Thursday.

On July 9, a few days after he was indicted, he turned himself in to authorities and was released the same day on $10,000 bond. Under the conditions of his release, he is not allowed to have contact with current or former members of NNEO's board or return to the organization's offices or properties, and he must remain in Virginia. 

A few days later, at a hearing Monday morning, those conditions were slightly revised. Jeffrey was granted permission to have interactions with his mother, Evangeline Jeffrey, and with Hill — both former NNEO board members — so long as they do not discuss his pending criminal case.

He was also allowed to retrieve some remaining belongings from an apartment on the group's property on the condition that he do so on a specified date. 

Additionally, Jeffrey was cleared to leave the state to attend a Goodwill Industries national meeting in Wisconsin later this summer.

As was the case on Thursday, Jeffrey did not appear at Monday's hearing but was represented by attorney Jonathan Kurtin.

According to online court records, Jeffrey has another procedural hearing slated for July 26, and a two-day jury trial on the embezzlement charges is currently scheduled to begin Oct. 25.

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