Virginia Economic Development Director Who Claimed She Was Big Casino Winner Was Big Loser, Embezzlement Probe Shows

Posted on: April 26, 2019, 06:09h. 

Last updated on: April 26, 2019, 06:09h.

A former Royal-Warren County, Virginia economic development director who boasted to local press last year of winning over a million dollars on slot machines actually lost $753,207 from 2014 to 2018, according to records subpoenaed from the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town.

Jennifer McDonald
Jennifer McDonald brandishes casino receipts detailing her slots winnings following an interview with The Royal Examiner last year, but she was only telling half the story. (Image: Roger Bianchini/Royal Examiner)

In February 2018, Jennifer McDonald gave an interview to The Royal Examiner to “clear the air” after questions had been asked about her burgeoning real estate portfolio and how she had achieved it on a public sector salary.

The secret was slot machines, McDonald assured a sceptical RE reporter, and her “lucky system,” which involved taking winnings from penny slots and plowing them into the dollar machines.

$17.6 Million Lawsuit

The “system” was hardly revolutionary, but successful enough to net her $800,000 in 2017 alone and over $500,000 for each of the previous two years, according to McDonald, who produced casino receipts to back up her claims.

I have taken the money that I’ve won and I have paid for the educations of my stepdaughter, two of my nieces and my stepson,” she explained. “I bought myself a truck; and the remaining I decided last year that I was going to start investing the money, rather than just letting it sit. So, I started to acquire investment properties.”

McDonald resigned as EDA director in December, a position she has held since 2008, and was subsequently named with nine others — including Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron — in $17.6 million EDA lawsuit that alleges embezzlement, fraudulent land deals, and the misappropriation of credit lines.

The filing alleges that McDonald “doctored and “created false documents” and then made false entries in the EDA’s books “to conceal the diverted monies.”

House Always Wins

Virginia State Police launched a criminal investigation in August, which is ongoing. Special Agent Eric Deel said this week that records provided by the Hollywood Casino show McDonald’s losses escalated from $38,752 in 2014, to $130,517 in 2015, $158,752 in 2016, $205,264 in 2017, and $219,920 in 2018.

In 2017, McDonald was charged with a misdemeanor count of filing a false police report after she claimed a rock had been thrown through her window with a note attached that included the phone number of an EDA supervisor, Tom Sayre.

Sayre has since filed a defamation lawsuit against McDonald relating to the incident. The suit alleges she was attempting to discredit and “frame” him because he was looking into a workforce housing project, which was the focus of McDonald’s alleged embezzlement.