Atkins Embezzlement Trial: Not Guilty Across The Board

A Rappahannock County jury found Sperryville resident Tammy Lynn Atkins not guilty on three embezzlement charges Wednesday evening following a two-day trial in circuit court. MadRapp file photo.

A Rappahannock County jury found Sperryville resident Tammy Lynn Atkins not guilty on three embezzlement charges Wednesday evening following a two-day trial in circuit court. MadRapp file photo.

A Rappahannock County jury consisting of nine men and three women found Tammy Lynn Atkins, 50, of Sperryville not guilty Wednesday evening of three embezzlement charges totaling more than $8,000.

Atkins had been charged with stealing the money over a 13-month period from her employer, Henselstone Window and Door Systems, Inc., where she worked as an office manager but performed numerous other duties for the officers of Henselstone: Berkley and Heribert “Harry” von Felitzsch and their business partner, Ruediger Eder, and the von Felitzssch’s other businesses.

The charges arose from Atkins use of an Atlantic Union credit card issued to Windows and Doors.

Atkins testified Wednesday morning that she had received verbal communication from Heribert von Felitzsch that she could use the credit card to purchase gasoline for her person vehicle used to run errands for the various businesses.

She said she relied on the company’s credit card policy to also purchase food at restaurants for herself, her husband and son when they worked at the farm without pay.

Atkins admitted she had purchased ribeye steaks once, had gotten cash back from a debit card multiple times to buy items for the B and B where a credit or debit card could not be used, and she had purchased a lottery ticket once at Harris Teeter in Warrenton.

She admitted that had been a mistake.

Berkley von Felitzsch testified Atkins – who had worked for the business for approximately six years and who had cleaned her house prior to that – had been a trusted friend and employee, knowing that she was a convicted felon (embezzlement in 2013) and had served six months in jail for the crimes.

Atkins admitted she had a checkered past when she took the stand in her defense. She told the jury she had a 1993 bad check charge, a 2004 shoplifting charge at Giant in Warrenton, and the 2013 embezzlement charge where she admitted guilt.

“I served six months in jail, paid restitution and court costs,” Atkins said. She said she had earned full restitution including the right to vote and to bear arms.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Arthur L. Goff went into great detail in his examination of von Felitzsch, who described more than 500 individual usages of the card for what she deemed extreme. She said her estimate of just over $111 per month for personal gas usage and for the purchase of supplies for the office and B and B.

Atkins differed in her accounting citing the amount of travel she did for the business going to the post office, the banks, and to COSTCO and other places where she purchased supplies for the businesses.

When confronted on January 28, 2021, Atkins wrote an email apologizing for her errors and the von Felitzschs put her on a six-month probation period. About a week later they fired her after learning she had used a debit card for the B&B also in the same manner.

The jury deliberated approximately 80 minutes before announcing it had decided on its verdict. Part of the time came when it had a question and Judge James P. Fisher reconvened the court to hear and answer the question.

They wanted to know where Heribert von Felitzsch was and why he was neither in the courtroom for the two-day trial nor was a witness for the commonwealth.

Judge Fisher told the jury it “was a question the court could not answer.”

“As I instructed you before you began deliberations, you could only follow the law and the evidence presented in court,” Judge Fisher said. “This is like the example I gave that you couldn’t use an outside source like the internet – no independent research.”

He sent them back to the jury room to continue their deliberations and they returned less than 10 minutes later.

The case began Tuesday morning with the empanelment of the jury followed by testimony from Berkley von Felitzsch, Front Royal CPA Michael Nichols, and Computer Specialist Robert Grimm, who also works in Front Royal.

Berkley von Felitzsch told the jury Tuesday that Atkins was given the card – issued in her name – in June 2019 when she and her husband moved from the 200-acre Amissville farm that housed the business and a bed and breakfast they established after moving.

Von Felitzsch also testified she had hurt her back and had multiple surgeries after her family’s move to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and when Atkins emailed bank statements and conciliatory reports on all employees credit card usage, including that of her card in Atkins’ possession she never looked at them before forwarding the emails to Nichols’ office in Front Royal.

She added she gave Atkins access to the Windows and Doors card as well as another in von Felitzsch’s name drawn on BB&T Bank for Henselstone Estates, LLC, that managed the B&B and farm because it seemed easier considering the distance from North Carolina.

Nothing seemed amiss with credit card usage until late January 2021 shortly after Atkins informed her employer, she no longer could manage the B&B.

In closing arguments Goff proffered several “red herrings” the jury should consider in delivering guilty verdicts.

He noted the various QuickBook reports von Felitzsch generated after Atkins firing as well as credibility of his witness versus Atkins whom he described as a felon.

“Who stands to be convicted here?” Goff said. “Berkley doesn’t.”

He also likened Atkins to the “Rabbit in charge of the lettuce”.

“She coded the various receipts when they came in, including her own,” Goff added. “She saw an opportunity when Berkley got sick, and she grabbed it. She gave Berkley her own admission of guilt with those two emails admitting she had made mistakes.

“She succumbed to temptation with no oversight and an inconsistent owner.

He also reminded the jurors how defensive Atkins was on the stand when Goff peppered her with his questions.

“Common sense must rule,” Goff concluded.

Defense Attorney Joseph Pricone of Warrenton closed his case with the question: “Did [Atkins] misuse the credit card?”

“The government must prove misuse but consider what the written credit card policy was and what the unwritten credit card policy was,” Pricone said. “[Consider] the type of business and the number of businesses [that ran out of the business office].”

The attorney also slammed von Felitzsch’ accounting informing the jury they should get a calculator from the court and tabulate the “estimates” themselves.

Pricone apparently provided enough doubt in the juror’s minds when they came out with their verdict.

Pricone would provide comment to media after the trial ended. Goff only said, “What can you say?”

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