news augusta county court documents allege that nexus services owners drained victims bank account
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Augusta County: Court documents allege that Nexus Services owners drained victim’s bank account

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The long-running legal and PR battle between the owners of Nexus Services Inc. and Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith will one day relatively soon have its day in court.

An Augusta County grand jury returned indictments against Michael Donovan, the CEO of Nexus Services, and his domestic and business partner, Richard Moore, a vice president at the company, in a case in which it is alleged that they stole $426,000 from Zachary Cruz, the brother of Parkland High School mass shooter Nikolas Cruz.

The pair were indicted on charges of obtaining money by false pretenses, financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Another Nexus Services vice president, Timothy Shipe, was also indicted on obtaining money by false pretenses and conspiracy to commit a felony charges in connection with the case.

The three were arrested this week on those charges and released on bond.

No trial date has yet been set.

Nexus Services, which began operations in 2014, has been the focus of numerous state and federal criminal investigations in its short history, most recently a $1.5 million employment tax fraud indictment against Moore announced last December, and a 2021 lawsuit filed by attorneys general in three states, including Virginia, and the federal Consumer Protection Bureau alleging that the company preys on immigrants held in federal detention centers by concealing or misrepresenting the true nature and costs of its services.

The strategy from Nexus Services in response to the legal challenges seems to be to fight fire with fire, playing the PR game well, creating its own online news and reality-TV shows to try to cast the company’s efforts in a different light.

Nexus Services established a corporate headquarters in Augusta County in 2015, amid some amount of local fanfare, not surprisingly, given the company’s gifts in the PR realm, with county leaders excitedly touting the reported 250 jobs that Nexus Services, which helps post bond through third-party licensed bondsmen for people held in immigration detention centers while they await court cases, would bring to the local economy.

The era of good feelings would be short-lived.

The company filed a federal lawsuit against Smith, the county sheriff, in 2016, alleging that Smith was working with a local bail bondsman to derail its bonding program, which it later dropped.

In 2019, an effort to link Smith to a Harrisonburg man who was convicted in a 2018 labor-trafficking case during Smith’s run for re-election was linked to a PAC formed by a Nexus Services VP.

Nexus Services was also at the center of a series of protests at the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office last summer that led to the arrests of 19 people on noise ordinance and disorderly conduct charges, most of which were eventually dismissed in Augusta County General District Court.

The case made by local authorities involving Zachary Cruz alleges that Donovan and Moore met Cruz in 2018 after he was arrested for trespassing at Parkland High School.

Nexus Derechos Humanos, a pro bono law firm affiliated with Nexus Services, filed a lawsuit on Cruz’s behalf alleging torture and civil-rights violations in Broward County, and Donovan and Moore ultimately took him in to live with them at their Augusta County home.

The suit in Broward County was settled for $3,000 in 2019, but Cruz would receive $426,000 from a settlement following the 2017 death of his mother, and according to court documents, he opened a joint checking account with Moore.

It’s alleged that Moore conducted a wire transfer in the amount of $300,000 from that joint account to pay delinquent federal taxes, and that another $100,000 was taken from the account to make luxury car and credit card payments.

Cruz, according to court documents, told a federal grand jury last year that he had not authorized the  payments.

Donovan, in a phone interview with an Associated Press reporter on Thursday, denies that Cruz has been defrauded, and claims the charges are retaliation for efforts he has undertaken to expose corruption in the sheriff’s office.

“I want to go to a jury. I will call witnesses and expose these people,” Donovan said in the interview.

Chris Graham

I write books, two on UVA basketball, one on pro wrestling, one on politics, which is getting to be like pro wrestling more and more each day. I've finished three marathons, but my maranthoning days are over. I'm also a progressive who voted for Biden, but we need another Democrat in 2024. (Sorry, Joe, and thanks.) Want to reach me? Try [email protected]