Plea deal expected in SAAA embezzlement case

Posted: September 20, 2013

Vic Bradshaw
The Winchester Star
FRONT ROYAL — The former leader of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging is expected to avoid trial on four felony counts of embezzlement by pleading guilty to one or more charges.
Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden indicated in an email Friday afternoon that the two-day jury trial of Helen M. Cockrell scheduled to begin Monday had been called off.
He further wrote that the case was continued to Tuesday “for the submission of a proposed plea agreement to the court.” He declined to provide details about the agreement.
Online court records indicate that the case is docketed for 9 a.m.
Cockrell, 57, was indicted  April 1 on four counts of embezzling more than $200 from the regional agency that provides services to senior citizens. The alleged crimes occurred in 2010 and 2011.
She pleaded not guilty to all the charges on June 5 and has been awaiting trial while out of jail on a $10,000 unsecured bond.
The SAAA’s board of directors terminated Cockrell on Sept. 8, 2011, following an investigation into the agency’s finances by the Virginia Department for the Aging.
The probe was triggered by the discovery of 81 unmailed checks totaling nearly $265,000 in a safe at the SAAA’s Front Royal headquarters. The agency did not have that amount in its bank accounts.
She is the only person to be charged with a crime related to the financial irregularities.
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 includes home meal delivery, in-home assistance, respite care, transportation and Medicaid and Medicare assistance among its other offerings.

See Saturday's Winchester Star for more details.