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Posted at 10:53 AM ET, 11/23/2010

McDonnell mulls changes to tobacco commission

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said he is reviewing with top members of his administration what changes -- including legislative ones -- might be necessary in the wake of a $4 million theft at the tobacco commission, which has doled out millions of dollars in the last decade for the most economically depressed areas of the state.

But he stopped short of saying an investigation is needed into the tobacco commission to prevent similar thefts from happening again.

"The governor is extremely disappointed and concerned regarding this recent news,'' McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "The governor and top administration officials have been discussing internally what steps to take in the wake of this announcement to ensure that such fraud cannot take place again."

Read today's article about how many have begun to question whether more than $1 billion from a settlement with the nation's largest tobacco companies has been spent properly and if the money is safe.

"The governor supports taking every possible step to ensure that no such fraud can ever occur again,'' Martin said. "The governor believes it is imperative that the public trust is restored and every commission dollar is put towards efforts to rebuild and restore the economy of Southern and Southwest Virginia."

John W. Forbes, 54, secretary of finance under Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), admitted that he stole $4 million from the commission while serving as a member. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in August while the case was under seal and will be sentenced in a federal court in Richmond on Tuesday.

"Virginia has long been known as a state in which public corruption is not tolerated, and he supports punishment to the fullest extent of the law for Mr. Forbes,'' Martin said of the governor.

Forbes received a $5 million grant for the Literary Foundation of Virginia, which he founded as a charitable organization, but later admitted that he used $4 million of the money for a new home, personal investments, cash and to start a company, according to court documents.

"He feels completely remorseful for what's occurred," said Erich C. Ferrari, Forbes's attorney. "He's ready to accept the punishment."

By Anita Kumar  | November 23, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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