Lynch pleads to embezzling

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A former Suffolk attorney pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain in Circuit Court on Tuesday to embezzling almost $40,000 from a Suffolk church.

Anne Marston Lynch, who was formerly an attorney with the law firm of Pretlow & Pretlow, acknowledged in court that she had taken $39,786.20 from the St. John’s Episcopal Church checking account while she was serving as the treasurer of the church.

She told reporters after leaving the courthouse that she had no comment.

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According to evidence presented by prosecutor Marilyn Sallee, a new treasurer took over Lynch’s duties in early 2007 and conducted an audit of the church’s BB&T accounts. He found that on Oct. 13, 2006, $25,000 had been transferred from the church’s savings account to its checking account, and then a cashier’s check for $39,786.20 had been drawn on the checking account, payable to George L. McGaha. The amount of $14,786.20 had previously been moved from the account, totaling the amount of the cashier’s check.

When confronted about the missing money, Lynch told church officials the money was used to start a new account at Wachovia Bank, but no such account existed, Sallee said.

McGaha was the plaintiff in a personal injury case that resulted from a car crash that occurred in Stafford County in 2000. Lynch had been representing him in the case as part of her duties with Pretlow & Pretlow, and, the investigation revealed, she delivered the cashier’s check to him as his settlement in the case.

Later that year, she repaid the stolen amount, along with $525 in interest, to the church.

Sallee did not know what had happened to the money that McGaha should have gotten as the settlement, and referred questions to the law firm, which would not speak about the case.

“You’re not going to get any comment out of our office,” Pret Pretlow said.

Judge Charles E. Poston, a Circuit Court judge from Norfolk, took the case under advisement until Dec. 3, 2012. Lynch will remain on supervised probation in the interim.

In an unrelated case, Lynch was suspended this year from the Virginia State Bar and disbarred from the Virginia Court of Appeals, after she ignored several orders from the appellate court.

That case involved her representation of a local man charged with criminal acts. Lynch had asked for leave to withdraw as the man’s attorney, because she believed his appeal had no merit. The appellate court declined permission to withdraw and ordered Lynch to file the appeal, which she did not do.

Lynch ignored several more orders before she finally responded and said her caseload was too heavy. She was found in contempt of the appellate court and was ordered to take classes in appellate practice and time management before she could be reinstated.