By MATTHEW BARAKAT Associated Press
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Whether Daniel Boice’s idea for a company was any good is debatable — he billed it as a sort of “Uber for private investigators” called Trustify — but his timing was impeccable.
He launched in 2015, just when the cheating-spouse website Ashley Madison was hacked and its customer base was released. Trustify’s revenue jumped from $33,000 in July 2015 to $374,000 in August, as suspicious spouses who had learned their loved ones were on the list led to a spike in demand for private eyes.
But it was a one-time blip, and the company never turned a profit. Boice, meanwhile, portrayed his company as a big success, lying to his investors about the company’s finances, and lavishly funded his lifestyle with their money, spending at least $3.7 million on items such as private jet travel, a seaside vacation home in Florida, and $10,000 on a personal yoga instructor, prosecutors said. Piles of Amazon boxes showed up daily at his home a few miles from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
Boice, 41, was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The judge, T.S. Ellis III, initially imposed a nine-year sentence at the hearing but then lowered it to the 97-month term requested by prosecutors, saying he rarely exceeds a prosecutor’s recommendation.
“I was a bit surprised by the government’s suggestion. I thought it would be higher,” Ellis said. “It’s an egregious fraud.”
Boice raised more than $18 million from more than 250 investors for Trustify. Prosecutors said that from the moment the company launched in 2015 until its demise in late 2018, Boice treated the company like his personal piggy bank. Boice admitted he used at least $3.7 million of the money for personal expenses, but prosecutors said that is a conservative estimate of the money he stole.
During Trustify’s four years of operation, about 15% of its revenue came from actual work, while about 85% came from individuals and companies duped into investing, prosecutor Russell Carlberg said. One venture fund alone invested nearly $2 million.
“It’s hard to imagine that Trustify was anything other than a startup fraud” from the outset, Carlberg said.
Boice’s lawyer requested a five-year-term. At Friday’s hearing, Boice apologized for his actions.
“I’m sorry every day for the people I’ve hurt,” said Boyle, who lived in Alexandria at the time of the fraud but moved recently to the Jacksonville, Florida, area. “It’s something I’ll live with for the rest of my life.”
Boice was also ordered to make $18 million in restitution. The judge ordered that whatever payments Boice makes toward that sum first go to individuals Virginia House speaker calls for July marijuana legalization
By DENISE LAVOIE Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s House speaker on Friday said she supports moving up the date for legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana in Virginia to this summer, a key change pushed by advocates who have sharply criticized legislation approved by lawmakers last month that would delay legalization until 2024.
Democratic Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn announced on Twitter that she will back an amendment to the bill with a July 1 legalization date.
“The time is now for us to act,” she said.
Filler-Corn said she will also push for other amendments, including a provision that calls for people who are currently incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to have an opportunity for resentencing.
Filler-Corn is also calling for an amendment that would automatically seal marijuana-related criminal records for nonviolent offenses on July 1. She also wants the legislation amended to legalize the private cultivation of “a limited number” of marijuana plants for personal use.
Filler-Corn said “legalization alone is not enough.”
“We must also address the historic targeting of black and brown individuals over non-violent marijuana related offenses,” she tweeted, referring to the three additional amendments she has proposed.
Last month, lawmakers approved a bill to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024, when retail sales of the drug would begin and regulations would go into effect to control the marijuana marketplace in Virginia.
With that vote, Virginia became the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. But the bill was roundly criticized by some lawmakers and advocates who wanted simple possession legalized quickly to end penalties for people with small amounts of marijuana.
Lawmakers last year decriminalized marijuana, making simple possession a civil penalty that can be punished by a fine of no more than $25.
The legislation to legalize simple possession beginning Jan. 1, 2024, has been on Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for a month now. He has a deadline of Wednesday to send amendments to the House and Senate for their consideration. Northam has not said publicly what amendments he plans to make, but suggested in an interview with VPM News on Wednesday that he, too, wanted a faster timeline on legalization.
“I personally don’t think we should be arresting or penalizing somebody for something we’re getting ready to legalize,” Northam said.
Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, declined to comment directly on Filler-Corn’s announcement.
“Governor Northam continues to have productive conversations with legislators and stakeholders on amendments to the marijuana legalization bill,” Yarmosky said in a statement.
“The Governor is grateful to the General Assembly for their hard work on this important issue, and he looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation. His top priority is making sure we legalize marijuana in an equitable way,” Yarmosky said in a statement.
The Senate had sought in its original bill to legalize simple possession on July 1 to immediately end punishments for people with small amounts of marijuana. But some House Democrats had pushed for a legalization date in 2024, arguing that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market.
Democratic Sen. Jennifer McClellan said support in the Senate for the July 1 date has not changed.
“I’m glad to see the House appears to be coming around to our position on the July 1 date. That gives me even more confidence that that’s what’s going to happen,” said McClellan, who is running for governor.
The 2024 date had also drawn sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Marijuana Justice and other racial justice advocacy groups.
Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice, said she is pleased that Filler-Corn has thrown her support behind the July 1 legalization date.
“It sounds like they are making the correct amendments to meet the demands that racial justice advocates have been pushing for, so this is really exciting,” she said. “I’m really thrilled that the political will has shifted … to repeal the prohibition of simple possession now and to repair people’s lives by releasing, resentencing and sealing records.”who were cheated as opposed to corporate investors.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed a civil complaint against Boice and his wife at the time, Jennifer Mellon, who served as a vice president of Trustify. The complaint alleged Mellon benefited unjustly from the scheme. Earlier this month, Mellon and a corporation she formed with Boice agreed to pay $72,000 to settle the complaint without admitting guilt.