Brenda van Emmenis, 54, faces up to 400 years in prison when sentenced May 8 in Fluvanna Circuit Court. She is being held in the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange County.

Van Emmenis, better known as Brenda Rigsby, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of embezzlement and seven for conducting unlawful financial transactions.

National Filter Service owner Chris Fairchild, a former supervisor representing the Rivanna district, said he discovered the theft in March 2013 after having the state do a financial audit. He then fired van Emmenis who worked for the company for 11 years.  She started as Controller and moved up to vice president, Fairchild said.

Fluvanna Commonwealth Attorney Jeff Haislip said he pulled no punches with van Emmenis’ lawyer, Bill Dinkin of Richmond, when discussing the case. That may have led to van Emmenis’ decision to plead guilty.

“She hired an attorney early on and we’ve been in contact all along about what the charges would be,” Haislip said. “When there was a request (for negotiations) I made it clear from the beginning what evidence I intended to present at trial.”

Haislip said no cache of money has been discovered and that played into his decision to ask Circuit Court Judge Susan Whitlock to revoke van Emmenis’ bond and remand her to custody.

“Our evidence is that $1 million was stolen and she paid only $20,000 in restitution so far,” Haislip said. “If there is a large stash of money, as sentencing approaches the temptation to flee becomes greater.”

Haislip said he will argue at the sentencing hearing van Emmenis be ordered to pay back at least a part of the money stolen

“Restitution is always a part of sentencing when there’s a loss,” he said. “One of our main goals is to get restitution so the victim can be made as whole as possible.”

Fairchild said he knows there may not be any money left of what van Emmenis stole.

“All I know is nobody can imagine where a $ 1 million went,” he said. “The investigators never found any. It looked like a lot of money was just spent. (She lived) a lavish lifestyle, but there’s not a lot money laying around.”

Fairchild said it continues to be a terrible experience for everybody. He gets no pleasure at seeing his former employee suffer.

“To the contrary, I find it tragic,” he said. “It’s such a waste. So many have been hurt through this – including her.”

Fairchild said he plans on testifying at the sentencing hearing.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while.”

As far as National Filter Service goes, Fairchild said the business is thriving.

“Everything is great. We’re looking for another great year. (We’re) always rethinking how we do business and looking at new, and different models of providing service.”

Van Emmenis, as Rigsby, also served as vice president of the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce. She was involved in two of the Chamber’s biggest events: The Wine Festival and BBQ, Bands and Brews.

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