Lawrence ‘Junior’ Wood ‘needs to get a taste of incarceration’
Labeling him a “danger to an unsuspecting public,” Rappahannock County Chief Judge Douglas L. Fleming, Jr. on Monday informed Amissville master carpenter Lawrence “Junior” Wood that he would be spending the next four years behind bars.
Upon his release, Wood will serve five years’ probation, with the stipulation that any future contracting work the 45-year-old laborer enters into must be approved in advance and then monitored by his probation office down to the last finishing “nail.”
Your “history is profoundly sad . . . a history that makes everybody doubt you,” Judge Fleming told Wood when it came time for his sentencing.
“I know I’ve done wrong,” said Wood, his arm in a sling from a recent ATV accident that left his collar bone fractured. “I know I’m due jail time.”
Wood’s longtime attorney, Frank Reynolds, requested that the judge place his client in a “work release” program so that he could continue to pay thousands of dollars in restitution that is still owed to some of his victims. The attorney also asked that Wood’s jail sentence be delayed until his medical condition improves.
But Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff cited the carpenter’s “three decades of criminality” that allegedly targeted unwitting victims stretching from Rappahannock into four surrounding counties. Goff argued that Wood’s modus operandi was not “borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul, but stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”
Monday’s court hearing dealt with Wood’s 58th alleged criminal violation in Rappahannock County, and he has faced similar if not more serious charges in Warren, Orange, Page and Spotsylvania counties, some of them still pending.
Goff detailed for the court how the Amissville contractor allegedly “takes money but doesn’t do the work,” telling the judge when recommending a tougher sentence that “it’s time the chickens come home to roost.”
Wood has “victims across the entire Piedmont of Virginia,” observed the prosecutor. “He needs to get a taste of incarceration.”
V. Brooke Farrell of Huntly, who hired the contractor to build two outbuildings and a barn, was on hand for Monday’s sentencing. She said in her victim impact statement that “Wood did more than take my money. He took my trust and abused it. This is the lasting impact that his actions will have on me.
“I have been fully paid back and am thankful for this,” she noted. “Others, however, may not be so lucky.”
The Rappahannock News is told of additional county residents, two living within blocks of each other in the town of Washington, who recently hired Wood for contracting work — one paying him tens of thousands of dollars in advance — that was not completed.
“Justice has been served,” remarked Main Street resident Megan Smith, after Wood’s sentencing to seven years in prison with three years suspended.
It had come up in court that Wood suffered in the past from a gambling habit, for which the defendant said he since received treatment. Regardless, Goff said the carpenter continued to write fraudulent checks on an account that he knew was closed.
“It’s the same old story, isn’t it?” the prosecutor turned to say to the defendant.
Going back to 2003, Wood has been found guilty in Rappahannock County Circuit Court of 14 charges of forgery, 14 charges of uttering (another form of forgery), 26 probation violations, entering property with intent to damage, and stealing checks.
The latest charges in Rappahannock — failure to perform construction after being paid, and issuing a bad check over $500 — were brought by Farrell.
According to the criminal complaint filed by Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office Investigator James Jones, Wood and Farrell “entered into a contract for Mr. Wood to construct a 60’ x 30’ barn . . . for the cost of $33,466.”
Farrell advanced Wood the money, but the barn was never constructed. When Farrell demanded her money back, “Wood wrote a check to pay Brook Farrell for $30,879, so that she would not pursue criminal charges against him concerning a construction fraud case,” Jones wrote in a separate complaint.
However, the check was returned by the bank for “insufficient funds.”
Farrell said she hired Wood, an otherwise talented carpenter and builder, on the basis of solid references from people she trusted who had employed Wood successfully. Despite his record, he had been able to garner references from some of Rappahannock County’s highest public officials who included Sheriff Connie Compton, then-County Administrator John McCarthy, past Treasurer Frances Foster, and Beverly Atkins, former Commissioner of the Revenue.
For example, in 2008 Wood was sentenced in Rappahannock to 10 years and 10 months in the penitentiary, with five years suspended, plus two additional years for probation violations. One year later, a motion filed in Rappahannock County Circuit Court asking to suspend the unserved portion of that sentence included eight letters of reference from county officials.
The letters described Wood as dependable, respectful, trustworthy, and hard working. As a result, Wood was not moved to the penitentiary, rather was incarcerated in the former county jail where he worked as a trustee under the supervision of Compton. Besides construction projects for the sheriff’s office and elsewhere within the Rappahannock County government, Wood was dispatched to Culpeper County to work as a trustee for the sheriff there.
In 2012, Wood’s then-attorney Matthew Crowley entered a motion to modify Wood’s sentence because “Defendant [Wood] has never been transferred to the Virginia State Department of Corrections.”
— Patty Hardee contributed to this report.
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