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Lawyer: Deal reached in Va. gov mansion chef case

Steve Szkotak, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The former chef at the Virginia governor's mansion has reached a deal with prosecutors over four felony counts of embezzlement involving the theft of food from the first family's kitchen, his attorney said Wednesday.

The case against chef Todd Schneider brought to light allegations of misconduct against Gov. Bob McDonnell and entangled Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor.

Schneider's attorney Steven D. Benjamin refused to detail the agreement until a court hearing later Wednesday.

"The parties have agreed to a favorable resolution of all the allegations against Todd Schneider," Benjamin told The Associated Press.

Prosecutor Gregory D. Underwood confirmed the hearing, but would not elaborate, citing a gag order.

"I'm not going to confirm or deny that any agreement has been reached," he said.

Schneider's trial is scheduled for Oct. 15, less than three weeks before Virginia's gubernatorial election.

Schneider told investigators the first family had taken undisclosed gifts from a wealthy donor and from the kitchen, and that the governor required him and other state employees to work private and political events.

In exchange for payment, he was directed to take the food he is accused of stealing, Schneider has said.

Schneider's allegations led to state and federal investigations.

Authorities are looking into the relationship between McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell and Jonnie Williams, a wealthy donor and chief executive of troubled nutritional supplements maker Star Scientific Inc.

Investigators are looking at whether Williams or his company benefited as a result of more than $124,000 worth of gifts and loans to the first family.

McDonnell has defended not reporting the gifts, noting that Virginia's public ethics laws require the disclosure only of gifts given directly to public officials, not their family members. In July, however, he publicly apologized and announced the gifts and loans were returned or repaid to Williams.

Cuccinelli accepted more than $18,000 worth of gifts from Williams and Star Scientific, and once owned more than $10,000 in company stock. Some of the gratuities, including a $3,000 summer family vacation and a catered $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner at Williams' palatial waterside getaway at Smith Mountain Lake near the Blue Ridge Mountains, were not disclosed until April, when Cuccinelli amended four years' of economic disclosure forms.

In July, Richmond's Democratic commonwealth's attorney, Mike Herring, said in a report that Cuccinelli broke no state law with his tardy disclosures of Williams' gifts.

Then, earlier this month, Cuccinelli gave a Richmond charity $18,000 — the same value as gifts he accepted from Williams.


Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sszkotakap