By Nancy Drury Duncan –
Angela Hinman “Angel” Taylor, the former Hallwood town clerk who was charged with 65 felony counts of embezzlement, pleaded guilty to 12 felony charges in Accomack circuit court Thursday in a plea agreement with the commonwealth. The crimes occurred between Aug. 31, 2011, and Sept. 12, 2017.
During the course of a state police investigation, a Virginia State Police special agent identified 65 instances when Taylor, 48, of Hall Street in Hallwood, committed felony embezzlement by writing checks to herself and paying her personal electric bill with town funds. There were also two misdemeanor charges.
Because all the town’s financial records were lost when Taylor’s car caught fire and burned with the records inside shortly before a town audit was scheduled, the commonwealth was not able to prove other money was taken as well, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer
Morgan. The total amount of money taken from the town uncovered by the investigation was $24,009.71. This includes $19,368.19 from 55 unauthorized checks Taylor wrote to herself from the town account and $4,641.52 in payments to ANEC for her personal electric bill, Morgan said.
“Taylor was the clerk for the town of Hallwood,” Special Agent A.W. Pittman wrote in the court file. “In this position, she was responsible for paying the town bills, maintaining meeting minutes, and other secretarial jobs.” Hers was the single authorized signature required on town checks, he added. Her salary was $350 a month with extra for selling town decals, Morgan told the court. She was arrested in January 2019 and later released on bond. She waived a preliminary hearing.
The final instance of embezzlement identified by police was $208.05 on Sept. 12, 2017. This was just weeks before she was ordered by Hallwood officials to provide town financial records to an Atlantic bookkeeper for an audit. Those records were in Taylor’s car along with other town files when she said the vehicle caught fire on Wessells Farm Road near Hallwood. The car was hauled to a local salvage yard, crushed, and taken away before town officials found out about it, Hallwood Mayor Jackie Poulson said in October 2017.
Taylor resigned from her job by leaving a note in the town office dated Oct. 9. As all town records were destroyed in the fire, investigators only had bank records and electric bills to acquire evidence against her.
In return for her pleas of guilty and having already made full restitution, the commonwealth aggregated all the instances of embezzlement committed over each six-month time period into a single felony count as allowed by the Code of Virginia.
At Thursday’s trial, Taylor pleaded guilty to 12 felony counts of embezzlement and has paid the full restitution of $24,009.71, said Morgan. He said no sentence is specified in the agreement. Morgan said he made the agreement because that is commonly the way embezzlements are charged.
“There is some concern among town officials that cash payments for decals may have been taken also, but there is no evidence,” he said, referring to the destroyed records.
He said when he first interviewed Taylor, she downplayed any embezzlement. “There was a fair amount of denial.”
Morgan said that he recently spoke with town officials about the case. “Some felt she had not been charged severely enough, and some felt she should only be charged with misdemeanors.” He said he sent a letter to the mayor and Town Council explaining the way the case was to proceed because, “There was no consensus among them.”
Called to the witness stand by defense attorney Carl Bundick, Taylor said she had worked as town clerk for 13 years. He asked her why she agreed to plead guilty. “I did this for the town and for me,” she said. She told the court she has been working for Lowe’s for two years driving a tractor-trailer truck. “I drive the truck and deliver product to customers’ homes.”
She said she finished paying the $24,009.71 restitution last May. She said she has offered her services to her town to make up for what she did. She said she offered to put a roof on their pavilion, “Because I had some leftover shingles.” She said she has also offered to do painting and to pick up trash. “I will be helping prepare care packages for town residents,” she said. She said she will lose her job now that she has felony convictions.
According to the terms of the plea agreement, Taylor will remain on bond until her May 27 sentencing.