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Profiles In Revenge: Grifty Virginia Gov Brought Down By Chef, In Mansion Kitchen, With A Candlestick

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Image by RenjiZabimaru6 atdeviantart


Augh, weddings. So expensive! Even if you're the Governor of Virginia and the commonwealth gives you a big old house to party in for free, you cannot serve the guests jalapeno poppers and tub-o'-nacho. Feeding 200 people a fancy chicken and shrimp dinner will cost you.

Well, it will cost you unless you are Governor Bob McDonnell. If you are Bob, it will cost that other guy, the one who makes the tobacco pills. You won't have to pay until later, when you fire your chef for doing what you told him to do, at which time he will turn state's evidence on your ass. Bob and Maureen McDonnell are now facing their (ALLEGEDcrimes against Virginian humanity and could soon be headed to the clink, thanks to an investigation set in motion by the man who used to run their kitchen.

Back in happier times, before the Trial of the Century of the Summer, one of Bob McDonnell's daughters had a wedding reception at the Governor's Mansion. When it was time to pay the mansion's in-house chef Todd Schneider for the catering, Todd got a check from a man who would probably later wish that he'd paid with a stack of twenties: Jonnie Williams, CEO of Star Scientific and modern-day snake oil salesman. (We can hear the governor's lawyers piping up right now to claim that this payment was in no way a gift to Governor McDonnell! It was totally for his daughter, whom we are sure would have paid the caterer $15,000 herself if Jonnie hadn't offered to help.)

The chef, smelling something rottener than a shrimp that fell in the flowerbed, kept a copy of Jonnie's check. Three years later, that humble photocopy is an artifact that will one day find its rightful place in the Wonkette Museum of American Grift along with the chef's smartphone photos of the McDonnells' adult children shopping in the mansion's stores for flats of Gatorade and liquor and eggs. (The First Lady, the chef says, stole the mansion's pots and pans, the people's pans, to furnish her kids' apartments.)

Chef Todd documented the family's sticky fingers, he says, because the whole household seemed off and he wanted to cover himself in case of trouble. Even the chef's compensation was hinky: the governor had Todd use linens and other supplies that belonged to Todd's catering company for state events and repaid him by letting him take food for the company that had been ordered under the mansion's budget, an arrangement acknowledged by the McDonnells' attorneys. When an anonymous tip called in to the state's hotline for waste and fraud claimed that Todd was wrongfully carting foodstuffs out of the governor's kitchen, he tried to explain about the bartering, only to find that the McDonnells had thrown him under the wheels of Jonnie Williams' private jet.

Todd was suspended and ultimately fired from his job at the mansion, then indicted for embezzlement by Virginia's attorney general, Star Scientific shareholder and future gubernatorial race-loser Ken Cuccinelli. Todd took a misdemeanor plea with restitution to avoid felony charges, but maintains that he didn't steal from anyone and it was his former employers who were the crooked ones. (We should note here that Schneider does not have a 100% clean record, but we would still sooner leave him alone with the family silver than any of the McDonnells.) Less than a year later, Todd handed everything he had on the Magnificent Griftertons over to the US Attorney.

The mansion director has had her turn on the stand in the ongoing corruption trial, but "Todd Schneider" did not appear on the list of prosecution witnesses and Schneider's former company, Seasonings Fine Catering, is not mentioned by name in the McDonnells' indictment, where it is referred to only as "the catering company" that (allegedly) received 15 large from Jonnie. The (alleged) chicken dinner made up less than 10% of the total (ALLEGED) Williams-funded haul of cash and prizes pulled in by the McDonnells.

The Washingtonian has the definitive interview with The Chef Who Got the Short Shrift. Todd landed in Florida after all the unpleasantness in Richmond and is once again running a catering business. He doesn't seem to miss his work for the McDonnells, which sounds like hell on earth: Maureen was a "nightmare" who used to profanely berate her staff on the regular, send Todd out for tampons at two in the morning, and haze the mansion's maids if she didn't like how the bedsheets were tucked in. Even Florida sounds better than that. We're calling this one for Chef Todd.

"We are not going to comment on allegations from a fired former disgruntled employee."

--McDonnell spokesman Jason Miyares

"Karma is a bitch."

--Todd Schneider

 [ WaPo / TPM / Washingtonian ]

You can follow Beth on Twitter for the latest standings in the Griftiest Governor Tourney.

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