Bob McDonnell Asked About Use Of Food By Former Executive Chef Charged With Embezzlement

Discovery motions filed by lawyers representing former Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider in his felony embezzlement case seek information on whether Gov. Bob McDonnell's family was provided food or catering services from his company that were not reimbursed.

It also seeks information documenting "state goods and resources that were consumed, provided to, or taken by family members" of the governor and first lady Maureen McDonnell, including:

-- Lodging and resources provided to Jeanine McDonnell during her residence at Camp Pendleton, "believed to be for several months in early 2012."

The state owns a gubernatorial beach cottage at Camp Pendleton, a sprawling oceanfront reserve in Virginia Beach that Virginia's first families have used for decades.

--Energy drinks and supplements "taken from the mansion" by McDonnell twins Sean and Bobby "for use at their college residences."

--Liquor taken by Rachel McDonnell from the mansion for a private party at Camp Pendleton

--"Flats of eggs" taken from the mansion by Rachel McDonnell

--Pots and pans from the mansion given to Jeanine, Rachel or Cailin McDonnell by the first lady

The motion for exculpatory information filed Monday by defense lawyers Steven D. Benjamin and Betty Layne DesPortes suggests an alternate explanation to the embezzlement charges lodged against the chef.

Authorities have investigated whether Schneider took food from the mansion to use in his own business, according to a law enforcement source.

But the motion seeks information of instances when the director of the mansion or anyone else told Schneider to "take the value of an unpaid invoice for request for payment in food."

The motion also seeks documentation of instances when Schneider was allegedly told to pay himself and his company by "taking it out in trade," or "the usual way."

The motion also seeks information regarding the relationship between Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who provided a $15,000 check to pay for food at Cailin McDonnell's June 2011 wedding at the Executive Mansion. It also asks for information concerning any gifts Williams or his companies gave the governor or any member of the McDonnell family.

Richmond Circuit Judge Margaret P. Spencer is scheduled to hear the case against Schneider on July 15 and 16.

Schneider, 52, was indicted in March on four counts of felony embezzlement. He was released on a $2,000 personal recognizance bond and allowed to return home to Sarasota, Fla.

The indictments allege that the embezzlement occurred in 2011 and early 2012 when Schneider was chef at the mansion. Each of the four indictments alleges that Schneider embezzled property worth $200 or more from the state.

Schneider owned Seasonings Fine Catering and Event Planning. He joined the mansion staff early in McDonnell's administration, in April 2010, and ended his state employment in March 2012.

When Schneider's indictment was unsealed March 28, Benjamin issued the following statement: "Mr. Schneider continues to fully cooperate and provide information to the authorities as he has since their first inquiries in February 2012. He looks forward to resolving all questions in this matter consistent with the truth about what occurred and why."

The embezzlement case has become entangled with another matter involving occupants of the Executive Mansion -- the relationship among McDonnell, the first lady and Williams, the owner of Henrico County-based dietary supplement maker.

Williams, who has donated more than $100,000 in campaign contributions to McDonnell and his political action committee, also sent a $15,000 check to Schneider's catering company, apparently to cover the cost of catering for the June 2011 Executive Mansion wedding of the McDonnells' daughter Cailin.

McDonnell, who signed the catering contract before Williams' check, did not disclose the gift. He has said Williams is a friend and that the money was a wedding gift to Cailin. Gifts to family members do not have to be reported under state disclosure laws.

A prosecutor in the office of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is handling the Schneider case. The office has declined to comment on the case.

Schneider, who grew up in Connecticut and said he once worked with Martha Stewart, has catered for Virginia politicians from both political parties and has appeared alongside celebrity chefs.

Schneider has a motions hearing set for May 2. ___

(c)2013 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)

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