A Salem-based nonprofit domestic violence-counseling group closed its Lynchburg center this week after an executive was sentenced to prison earlier this month.
Richard A. Taylor, 31, was the chief financial officer for Domestic Values Education and Support, Inc. The group opened its Lynchburg counseling center in 2008 after obtaining nonprofit status, according to co-founder Sandra Callahan.
Callahan said she invested tens of thousands of dollars of her own money into starting the program. She said she was driven by her history as a victim of domestic violence to enter a three-decade-long career working with substance abusers and batterers.
She spent most of the last decade researching and developing what she hoped was a better way to stop abusers from reoffending.
The program, she said, has died “a very unnatural death.” The money Taylor was accused of stealing was earmarked to study its effectiveness, she said. The study, in turn, was to be used to seek grants to fund the program’s growth.
Taylor, of Roanoke, was indicted on four charges in U.S. District Court in Roanoke in October, including one charge of using wire fraud to steal more than $5,000 from DVES, and another unrelated count of aggravated identity theft.
As a result of a plea agreement, he was convicted of and sentenced on the count of aggravated identity theft. The remaining charges were dismissed. In exchange for the charges being dropped, Taylor agreed to pay back $13,062 he was accused of stealing to DVES, according to court records.
Any restitution won’t come until after Taylor is out of prison, Callahan said — too late to keep the counseling center open.
“For me, personally, before I go on with other steps, I’m going to give myself the gift of having some time to grieve,” she said. “Heartbreaking as it is, somewhere within it there is a divine plan to move forward.”
Callahan’s program sought to counsel the perpetrators of domestic violence in the same way she had helped substance abusers for years. She said she believes domestic violence can become addictive behavior because the rage releases feel-good chemicals in the brain.
She met Taylor two or three years ago. He was a “brilliant web designer,” she said, and was hired to create the DVES website before the counseling center opened. Callahan and the other folks managing DVES believed Taylor had a “sparkling reputation,” so they were happy to have him as a volunteer to help with the finances when he offered.
Callahan said Taylor provided financial reports that seemed to agree with what she thought donors were contributing and the bills that were due. But when a phone bill turned up past due, she and another volunteer uncovered signs that all was not well with the nonprofit’s finances.
A subsequent investigation by the Virginia State Police and the U.S. Secret Service led to the four-count indictment in October, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Neese said. The four counts were for charges that were unrelated to each other, Neese said.
Retired Amherst Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judge Larry Janow said he had worked with Callahan and reviewed her initial plans. Janow said the program’s long-term treatment components were promising.
“Unfortunately, because of (Taylor’s actions) and the legal issues of setting up the nonprofit, she may not have gotten a true chance to get it running and to introduce everyone to it.”
Callahan said that at one time, as many as two dozen people were participating in the domestic violence counseling por-tion of the program, although a more typical participation was about a dozen people per session.
The group is still looking for a way to continue, she said, and will maintain its nonprofit status.
More information about DVES is available on its website at www.dves.org.