LATEST: Williamson, WV Mayor Darrin McCormick resigns overnight - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

LATEST: Williamson, WV Mayor Darrin McCormick pleads guilty to lying to federal authorities

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WILLIAMSON, WV -

UPDATE, 5:15 p.m., May 15, 2014:

Former Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick plead guilty in a plea hearing on Thursday, May 15, in Charleston, to charges of lying to federal authorities from both the FBI and the IRS.

McCormick's sentencing date is August 28.  He faces up to five years in prison, as well as a $250,000 fine.
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UPDATE, 3:50 p.m., April 17, 2014:

According to court documents, Federal Prosecutor Thomas Ryan filed a motion Thursday to set a date for a guilty plea hearing for Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick.

McCormick is expected to plead guilty to making a fraudulent statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service regarding suspicious banking activity conducted by Aracoma Contracting LLC.

The date of the hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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UPDATE, 7:52 p.m., April 15, 2014:


Outgoing Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick has been charged in a federal information from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office with making a fraudulent statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service regarding suspicious banking activity conducted by Aracoma Contracting LLC.

An information is a formal accusation. When prosecutors file an information, the named individual is typically either cooperating in the investigation or has agreed to plead guilty.

The information states that on or about Feb. 19, 2013, McCormick made the false statements.

For the full Information filing click here


Employees at the Williamson branch Tuesday said McCormick no longer worked at the bank, but did not elaborate on when he stopped working.

Aracoma Contracting, LLC and the Bank of Mingo fell under the microscope in 2013. Several individuals pleaded guilty in a scheme to scam BrickStreet Insurance out of millions of dollars, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Aracoma executives Jerome Eddie Russell, 50, of Williamson, W.Va., and Frelin Workman, 58, of Belfry, KY, admitted in 2013 to honest services mail fraud and tax evasion. Russell and Workman told a federal judge they paid several workers in cash to avoid the associated premiums owed to BrickStreet. 

Prosecutors said they then bribed field auditor Arville Sargent with approximately $1 million in cash bribes to doctor the audits performed for the Workers' Comp Commission and BrickStreet. A federal judge sentenced Sargent to six years in federal prison. Russell and Workman each face 30 months for their participation in the bribery scheme. 

Two other individuals also pleaded guilty to their involvement in bilking BrickStreet. Federal prosecutors sentenced Aracoma to three years of probation and ordered it to pay more than $4 million in restitution and forfeit another $405,000.

Prosecutors have said that Aracoma used structured withdrawals at the Bank of Mingo to obtain the cash to bribe Sargent and to pay employees.

McCormick submitted his letter of resignation Monday. Council members tapped Steve J. Knopp, Williamson's municipal judge, to fill McCormick's shoes starting May 1.

"I was surprised and concerned because I've had a great deal of confidence in the current mayor, Mayor McCormick," said Knopp, who previously served as disciplinary counsel at the WV State Bar.

"I know what was in his letter, I don't know anything beyond that," Knopp said. "I think it's truly unfortunate that he's stepping down as a mayor because I think he's done wonderful things for the community and we'll certainly wish him well into the future." 

Knopp cited his predecessor's achievements during his nearly nine years in office, ranging from his support of the local diabetes coalition to his assistance in establishment a farmer's market.

The successor said he hopes to follow through with his own goals, which include rebuilding parts of downtown Williamson and redeveloping parking. Knopp will fulfill the remainder of McCormick's four-year term.

McCormick is the first employee with the Bank of Mingo to face a federal charge.

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UPDATE, 4:08 p.m., April 15, 2014:

Outgoing Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick has been charged in a federal information from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office with making a fraudulent statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service regarding suspicious banking activity conducted by Aracoma Contracting LLC.

An Information is a formal accusation. When an Information is filed, the named individual is typically either cooperating in the investigation or has agreed to plead guilty.

The information states that on or about Feb. 19, 2013 McCormick made the false statements.

For the full Information filing click here.

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Original story, 9:02 a.m., April 15, 2014:

Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick has confirmed that he submitted a resignation letter in the evening hours of April 14.

(CLICK HERE FOR THE RESIGNATION LETTER)

McCormick declined to give a reason for his resignation, but said his letter is "on file at City Hall."

The letter does not give a reason for the resignation either.

"It is my hope that by taking this action at this time that the city council members, staff and various board of the city will continue the positive momentum of the many exciting projects and opportunities that are just on the horizon for our community," McCormick says in the letter. "It is my desire to continue to support these many initiatives on a volunteer basis if permitted to do so."

During the April 10 regular meeting of Williamson City Council, Ward 3 council member Matthew Thornsbury submitted a letter of resignation, stating that he was moving his residence out of Ward 3.

McCormick is manager of the Bank of Mingo's Williamson branch. In October 2013 a federal investigation looked into a multi-million-dollar workers' compensation scheme.

Authorities seized computer hard drives and documents at the time, and FBI Special Agent James Lafferty said in a sworn statement he had "probable cause" to believe the bank and a bank official "conspired with or otherwise aided and abetted" Aracoma Contracting in structuring cash withdrawals.

Neither the bank nor any of its employees were charged, but Lafferty's statement mentioned McCormick, saying there was probable cause to believe McCormick aided Aracoma Contracting 

Prosecutors have said that Aracoma used structured withdrawals at the Bank of Mingo to obtain the cash to bribe Sargent and to pay employees. The cash transactions were divided into amounts of less than $10,000 to avoid having banks report the withdrawals to the Internal Revenue Service.

In his statement, Lafferty said a search warrant recovered a series of faxes from Aracoma to McCormick that appeared to have occurred in advance of cash withdrawals.

"Someone from Aracoma would fill out a line of credit advance request identifying who would be at the bank to pick up the cash coupled with a second sheet identifying the particular denomination," the FBI agent said in the statement.

All of the credit advance requests "purportedly" needed to be signed by McCormick for authorization, the statement said.

In December 2013 an Aracoma executive pleaded guilty to a federal charge in connection with a structuring scheme. Click HERE to read our previous coverage.

McCormick said April 15 Steven Johnson Knopp, who currently is the municipal judge, will assume the position of mayor.