Cockrell indicted for embezzlement (UPDATED with SAAA Response)
UPDATE: The Shenandoah Area on Aging on Tuesday issued the following press release regarding the Monday indictment of Helen M. Cockrell, its former president and CEO.
FRONT ROYAL — A Warren County grand jury has indicted the former head of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging for allegedly bilking money from the organization.
Helen M. Cockrell, the SAAA’s former president and CEO, was indicted Monday on four counts of embezzling amounts of $200 or more, according to a deputy clerk in the Warren County Circuit Court clerk’s office.
Further details on the charges were not immediately available because the grand jury still was meeting as of closing time at the Warren County Courthouse.
Efforts to reach Cockrell by phone and email Monday evening were unsuccessful. John Hudson, chairman of the SAAA’s board of directors, declined comment.
The indictments are the only criminal charges filed to date related to financial irregularities uncovered at the agency in August 2011.
That’s when an agency employee discovered 81 unmailed checks totaling nearly $265,000 in a safe at the SAAA’s Front Royal headquarters. The organization did not have enough money in the bank to cover the checks.
Cockrell was placed on administrative leave without pay shortly thereafter. On Sept. 8, 2011, the agency’s board of directors voted to fire her and James Shaffer, the organization’s finance director, for their involvement in the financial issues.
Ann McIntyre, the agency’s director of development, was terminated at the same time for violating an agency policy not related to the unmailed checks. She has claimed in a lawsuit that she was dismissed for allowing another staffer to use her SAAA credit card to purchase postage for the agency.
Though no information was available Monday regarding how Cockrell allegedly stole the money, a report following a 2011 Virginia Department for the Aging (VDA) preliminary investigation outlined four transactions in which the SAAA’s former leader was involved that “appears to be fraud.”
Two cashier’s checks drawn on an SAAA account were used to pay fraudulent invoices, the report alleged. It stated that Cockrell obtained both checks, which totaled $7,997.
In response to a breach of contract lawsuit filed by Cockrell and later dropped, the SAAA claimed that the checks were deposited into the account of REALLA LLC. State Corporation Commission records indicated that Cockrell’s husband, Stanley, was the registered agent for the company.
The VDA report also alleged that two receipts for a total of $1,264 were altered and submitted as business expenses by Helen Cockrell.
The SAAA provides services to senior citizens in Winchester and Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah and Page counties. It operates active-living centers in each jurisdiction it serves and also offers home meal delivery, in-home assistance, respite care, transportation and Medicaid and Medicare assistance.
Cockrell was hired for the agency’s top position in 2002 following her retirement after 22 years in the U.S. Air Force. She rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and was working in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed a plane into the building as part of a coordinated attack on America.
Cockrell has not responded to requests for comment since her firing, but Internet searches indicate she is working as a senior-living consultant.
The website helencockrellonagingwell.comstates that she is an “executive management consultant specializing in aging services, home and community based care, employed caregiver issues, long term care, and senior housing options.”
On helencockrell.brandyourself.com, she’s referred to as the owner of HMC Associates, “a management consulting firm specializing in providing technology solutions to improve Aging in Place options for Older Americans and their caregivers.” She’s also referred to as “a visionary” on that website.
Virginia State Corporation Commission records show Cockrell as the registered agent for HMC Associates LLC, with a Falls Church address listed for the company.
An official with the city of Falls Church commissioner of the revenue’s office indicated that Cockrell has no business license under that name in the city and has no business license for the address on the SCC records.
Helencockrellonagingwell.com also indicates that she operates in Harrisonburg. However, an official with the city revenue commissioner’s office said they have no business licenses recorded under the names HMC Associates or Helen Cockrell.
Her tenure with the SAAA is not mentioned on those websites or helencockrellonseniorhousing.com and is omitted from her background listing on helencockrell.brandyourself.com. That listing indicates that she’s been the owner and president of HMC Associates since 2002.
Helencockrellonagingwell.com states that she intends to blog about ways to more fully live senior years “[s]o that instead of accepting aging gracefully, we can skid into the graveyard, wine in one hand, chocolate in the other yelling, ‘Woo-hoo, what a ride!’ Life is just too short to be lived tentatively.”
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