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Another BVU official pleads guilty to a federal charge

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ABINGDON (WSLS10) - A Bristol man pleads guilty to a federal conspiracy charge.

Thursday, G. Walter Bressler, a former Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority official, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit program fraud, having knowledge of the commission of a felony, and concealing the felony from the United States.

The charge stems from certain BVU executives striking a deal with an unnamed company. The company would provide the executives with expensive gifts, and in return, BVU would accept the vendor's offer.

Read the full release below.

Former General Counsel for BVU Pleads Guilty: G. Walter Bressler Admits to Federal Conspiracy Charge

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – For the second time in as many days, a former official with the Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority pled guilty to federal conspiracy charges United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. announced today. G. Walter Bressler, 73, of Bristol, Virginia, waived his right to be indicted and pled guilty this afternoon in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon to a one count Information charging him with conspiracy to commit program fraud and having knowledge of the actual commission of felony and concealing such felony from the United States.

"Mr. Bressler had a requirement as general counsel for BVU to ensure they were following the law and he failed in that duty," United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. said today. ""Public corruption, which includes the illegal mishandling of taxpayer funded programs, is the FBI's highest criminal investigative priority. The Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority mess is an example of what can happen when corruption is tolerated by government officials and employees," said Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Richmond Division.

"Today's plea is a reminder that IRS-CI will remain vigilant in our investigation of these financial fraud schemes and will continue working with our law enforcement partners to combat this type of criminal conduct," said Thomas Jankowski, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office. According to evidence presented at today's hearing by Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee, Bressler was employed as General Counsel for BVU from January 1, 2009 to March 1, 2015. As part of his duties as General Counsel, Bressler was involved in the negotiations between Company #1 and BVU. BVU entered into an agreement with Company #1 that if BVU signed a contract for services with Company #1, then Company #1 would pay to entertain BVU executives, to include Bressler, and BVU Board Members and employee during a site visit in Dallas, Texas in November 2011. This entertainment included the payment of hotel expenses, limousine services, meals and tickets to a Dallas Cowboys football game, including access to a luxury box. In all, Company #1 paid more than $10,000 to entertain BVU executives and Board Members during the weekend of November 5, 2011 and November 8, 2011.

Company #1 entered into a contract with BVU for the amount of $4,496,096. On or about and between August 2013 and September 31, 2013, allegations of misconduct on the part of Wes Rosenbalm were brought to the attention of the BVU Board of Directors and Bressler. These allegations were discussed in multiple board meetings during executive sessions, during which Bressler was present. On September 16, 2013 a BVU Board of Directors Meeting was held, after entering into executive session, the BVU Board of Directors, with Bressler present, discussed the implications of the alleged misconduct of Rosenbalm, specifically the BVU Board of Directors discussed the receipt of tickets by Rosenbalm from vendors and contractors engaged in business with BVU and the implications that the acceptance of those gifts violated the Virginia Procurement Act. BVU Board Members also discussed the possibility that vendors who were not awarded contracts in favor of those who gave gifts were going to "raise all kinds of ruckus." During the course of the executive session, board members, with Bressler present, discussed the possibility that other BVU employees, specifically, Stacy Pomrenke and David Copeland, were also mentioned as being involved in illegal activity associated with vendors of BVU.

During the September 16, 2013 executive session, BVU Board Members, with Bressler present, had specific discussions about violations of federal law, the types of violations that had occurred and the consequences of those violations. However, following those discussions neither any of the Board Members or Bressler decided to contact law enforcement with the information that state and federal law had been violated, but instead determined it was best to provide Wes Rosenbalm with a severance package in hopes that any allegations of misconduct by Rosenbalm, other BVU employees, or BVU Board Members would not be made public or become known to law enforcement. On or about September 25, 2013, the BVU Board of Directors entered into an agreement with Rosenbalm to pay Rosenbalm a severance package of $269,420 in return for his resignation as CEO of BVU.

BVU Board Member #1, independently, and without support of the Board of Directors, brought his concerns about misconduct at BVU to the attention of law enforcement on or about October 21, 2013. The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Lee and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Jayne prosecuted the case for the United States.