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$3.3 million alleged embezzler gets bond

Thursday, Aug. 21 | By Julie Taylor
Robin Day Nicholas, charged with embezzling $3.3 million over a 14-year period from a custom millwork company in Marshall, was given bond today in Fauquier County Circuit Court.
Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
A Warrenton man, charged with embezzling $3.3 million over a 14-year period from a custom millwork company in Marshall, was given bond today in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

Judge Herman Whisenant set bond at $500,000 for Robin Day Nicholas who has been accused of stealing from Heritage Hardwoods, where he was branch manager since 1999.

Brought before a special grand jury last Wednesday, he now faces 60 counts of embezzlement-related charges, including 28 of embezzlement, 15 of felonious false pretenses, 15 of money laundering, and two counts of filing false tax returns.

The missing funds came to light on May 31 when A&M Supply Co. President Ray Prozzillo conducted an audit of the company's Heritage Hardwood subsidiary.

The count revealed a lot of missing items, and internal controls were not being followed. The audit also revealed that the missing inventory was from a company called Coleman Products.

Coleman Products was allegedly a fictitious company which only had an Orlean Post Office box.

A&M did not have an IRS or form W-9 from Coleman Products, but they mailed checks to Coleman's Orlean post office box. There is no company registered under that name in Virginia.

Authorities traced checks made out to Coleman to Suntrust Bank accounts allegedly belonging to Robin Nicholas, according to the Fauquier Sheriff's Office search warrant.

The last check was deposited on May 22, and brought the total to 190 separate checks stretching back to the year 2000.

Coleman charged A&M Supply $3.8 million total, but gave them a discount for making early payments.

Today, Nicholas appeared before the judge for a bond hearing, where his daughter, sister, mother, and close friend testified in Nicholas's favor saying he was a supportive, loving man.

"If I looked for parental guidance, it was undoubtedly him," said daughter, 21-year-old Kelcey Lauren Nicholas, a student at University of Alabama.

She said he has acted as father to his three step-sons, for the last eight years, and has shown patience and encouragement to one with cerebral palsy.

Nicholas' sister Shelby Nicholas, of Maryland, said in a faltering voice, "We were very, very close."

She said they spend birthdays and holidays together, and that "Robin is the one that organizes everything."

When she went through a divorce, Nicholas supported her emotionally and helped her buy a car.

His mother, Nancy Reddick agreed to report any bond violations, and claimed that his wife, Julie, would do the same.

Commonwealth's Attorney, James Fisher countered that Julie could not act as watchdog because of difficulties in the Nicholas marriage. Judge Whisenant agreed.

One of the witnesses, Steven Zeamer, owner of Steven B. Zeamer, Inc., said he not only bought materials from Heritage, but became close friends with the Nicholas family over the last eight years.

"I've known him as a personal friend, and I just can't believe he did it,” Zeamer said.

He offered Nicholas a managerial job, giving him access to a company credit card, but not invoicing.

"He was able to conceal it from you, and you were a very good friend," said Fisher/believed this type of duplicity should have been one reason to not allow bond.

Fisher, in arguing against Nicholas' release on bond, noted that Nicholas' lifestyle of Ritz-Carlton Hotel stays, plastic surgery charges, ownership of a race car and recreational vehicle, demonstrated that his high-living lifestyle provided incentive to flee.

"It's a first,” Fisher said. “This amount of money is something I've not seen before in any jurisdiction in Virginia that I've worked.”

Whisenant said, "I'm going to set bail for this case, but I'm going to set it mighty high."

Nicholas' daughter Kelsey, quietly cheered from the gallery, "Go daddy."

Fisher learned of the alleged embezzlement in early July and pulled together a task force of Virginia State Police, Fauquier Sheriff's detectives and the U.S. Secret Service to investigate.

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