Trial begins against Roanoke City Councilman Robert Jeffrey Jr. on money crimes

The trial continues on Tuesday

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke City councilman accused of serious money crimes faced a judge and jury Monday.

Robert Jeffrey Jr. is charged with two counts of embezzlement and two counts of obtaining money under false pretenses. He was tried for the latter crimes Monday.

It was decided by all parties that Jeffrey would be tried separately. His trial on embezzlement will begin immediately after the first one.

As a way to offset financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Roanoke City received a large amount of CARES Act money, a portion of which was designated for small businesses.

To be eligible for the funds a business had to prove several things. The one prosecutors focused on heavily was the requirement that a business had to have a certain number of employees working a certain amount of hours.

“Mr. Jeffrey did not have six full-time employees working for him,” said Sheri Mason, a lawyer in the Roanoke City Commonwealth’s Office. “No employee worked at least 30 hours per week and no employee worked at least 130 hours/month.”

Court evidence showed two applications were submitted to the Roanoke Economic Development office for two businesses owned by Jeffrey — Jeffrey Media, Inc. & RLJ Property Management.

Mason called on employees of Jeffrey at the time, employees from the Economic Development Office and bank officials to prove Jeffrey had part-time employees and not full-time employees who met the definition on the application.

Witness testimony showed applications were submitted under Jeffrey’s name, checks were issued for businesses he owned and deposited into accounts under his name.

However, the defense speculated on Jeffrey’s involvement every step of the way.

The application was submitted online, according to the Economic Development Director. With an electronic signature, the director could not confirm one way or another if Jeffrey was the one to submit the application as the signature wasn’t notarized.

A representative from that economic development office had some application questions for Jefferey. That employee testified Monday the number on the application did not work so he contacted Jeffrey through the email listed. Eventually, the two talked on the phone.

When grilled by the defense, that employee admitted it could have been anyone he talked to as he’d never spoken to Jefferey before. Although, he did say the person on the other end of the phone said he was Jeffrey.

The deposited check was also proven in court to not have been endorsed by anyone when it was deposited. Leaving the defense to introduce speculation surrounding who actually deposited the check.

Jonathan Kurtin, Jeffrey’s attorney, also speculated if a former employee of Jeffrey’s who had access and was previously convicted of stealing from her previous employer could have played a role.

In the end, the Kurtin tried to strike the Commonwealth’s evidence, but the judge denied it.

The trial continues Tuesday.

About the Author

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.

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