LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) _ A plea hearing is set for a former Roanoke woman charged in a Smith Mountain Lake mortgage fraud scheme. Susanne Helbig’s hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Lynchburg. Helbig, who now lives in Georgia, was charged in a 15-count indictment with bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, making false statements in connection with a loan and making a false statement on a tax return. The indictment claimed that in 2006 and 2007, Helbig and others submitted false and fraudulent mortgage loan applications and settlement statements in the name of straw purchasers. The losses were calculated at about $11 million.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The Virginia Board of Education is honoring two school divisions and 40 schools for improving the academic performance of economically disadvantaged students. The awards are based on results of Standards of Learning tests during the last two school years. West Point and Poquoson public schools were honored as Highly Distinguished Divisions for high graduation rates and for two years of full accreditation and exceeding federal objectives in English and math. Four schools in Amherst, Arlington, Franklin and Isle of Wight counties were named Highly Distinguished Schools for exceeding state and federal benchmarks two years in a row and passing English and math SOL tests at or above the 85th percentile. Thirty-six schools that passed at the 60th percentile or better also were recognized.
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) _ An accrediting body has taken Virginia University of Lynchburg off of probation. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools placed the university on probation in October 2013 for failing to maintain financial stability. Association president Paul Boatner tells The News & Advance that the decision to lift the probation was based on financial reports submitted by the university in August. University president Ralph Reavis says the school laid off nonessential staff and cut several athletic programs. The athletics department is now financially self-sufficient. The school also received its largest financial gift this year, a $1.4 million bequest, and other $35,000 gift.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A lawyer for the state has asked a federal appeals court to approve Virginia’s policy of automatically holding death row inmates in solitary confinement. The Virginia Department of Corrections is appealing a judge’s ruling that automatic around-the-clock isolation violates death row inmates’ due process rights. At a hearing Tuesday, state Solicitor General Stuart Raphael told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it should defer to prison officials’ judgment that death row inmates are so dangerous and such big escape risks that solitary confinement is justified. An attorney for death row inmate Alfredo Prieto said solitary is so extreme that it should be done only after an individual assessment determines it is necessary. The appeals court typically rules a few weeks after hearing arguments.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Republican Senate challenger Ed Gillespie is needling Democratic Sen. Mark Warner for not being an advocate for the Washington Redskins’ team name. Gillespie’s campaign ran an ad during the team’s game Monday evening attacking Warner for not fighting legislative efforts to force a name change. Gillespie is trailing Warner in public opinion polls, and earlier this month briefly stopped buying ads. Warner also had a 4-to-1 campaign cash advantage in the most recent disclosure reports. Opponents of the name say the term Redskin is derogatory toward Native Americans. The anti-“Redskins” movement has gained momentum and has drawn political, religious and sports figures into the debate.Warner has not joined efforts by other Senate Democrats to pressure the National Football League to have its name changed.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia motorists are continuing to enjoy a drop in gasoline prices. AAA Mid-Atlantic says the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.81 on Tuesday. That’s 1 cent less per gallon compared to the previous week and 33 cents less compared with the same week a year ago. Average prices range from $2.70 per gallon in Richmond to $2.88 in Charlottesville. Motorists in the Norfolk area are paying on average $2.85 per gallon. The average price in Roanoke is $2.79. Nationally, gas prices average $3.03 this week.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ An agent with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s Bureau of Law Enforcement has been installed as the president of the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association. Special Agent in Charge Joseph Cannon was sworn in earlier this month during the association’s annual convention. The association is made up of more than 1,100 sworn and non-sworn state, provincial, county, municipal and campus enforcement personnel tasked with enforcing liquor laws in the United States and Canada. The 16-year-old organization collects and disseminates research data, offers training to enhance the standards of liquor law enforcement, advises lawmakers on alcohol-related policy and provides technical assistance about best practices and policy development to law enforcement agencies. Cannon has been with Virginia ABC for more than 14 years, working in Chesapeake, Lynchburg and Richmond.
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) _ The suspect in the abduction of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham will be making an initial court appearance Friday in Fairfax in an unrelated case. Fairfax County prosecutor Ray Morrogh said Monday that 32-year-old Jesse Matthew will appear in court via video link from a jail in the Charlottesville area, where he is currently being held. Matthew was indicted last week in Fairfax on attempted capital murder and other charges for a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City. Authorities have said they have forensic links between the 2005 case, Graham’s abduction, and the 2009 disappearance and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. Graham’s remains were found Oct. 18 in Albemarle County after a month long search, but Matthew has thus far been charged only with abducting Graham.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments over the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors’ practice of opening meetings with a prayer. The county is appealing a judge’s ruling last year barring the board from opening meetings with prayers associated with a specific religion. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday in Richmond. Pittsylvania resident Barbara Hudson filed the lawsuit in 2011, claiming the Christian invocations violate the Constitution’s prohibition against government establishment of a religion. According to court records, the board has a 200-year tradition of allowing members to open meetings with prayers that sometimes mention Jesus Christ. The county argues that the Supreme Court has upheld such traditions as long as prayer isn’t used to proselytize or to disparage any faith.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Time is running out for Virginia voters to cast absentee ballots for the Nov. 4 general election. Tuesday is the deadline to submit an application to receive a ballot in the mail. Saturday is the deadline to vote in-person. The Virginia Department of Elections says an application to receive a ballot in the mail must be submitted to the voter’s general registrar’s office by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Voters can mail, email, fax or hand deliver the applications. Voters must return completed absentee ballots to their voter registration office by 7 p.m. Nov. 4. In-person absentee voting is available daily through Saturday at local voter registration offices. Voters must meet one of the numerous eligibility requirements to vote absentee. Acceptable photo identification will be required for those voting in person.