The Washington Post

Loudoun publisher admits fraud

- BY RACHEL WEINER rachel.weiner@washpost.com

The publisher of the Loudoun Tribune admitted Monday that he lied to investors about the newspaper’s financial health, wildly inflating the amount of money he put into the venture and the value of advertisin­g contracts.

Brian Reynolds, a Leesburg resident with links to many highprofil­e GOP officehold­ers in Loudoun County, pleaded guilty in Alexandria federal court to fraud and illegally possessing guns as a felon.

Reynolds, 52, launched the Tribune in 2016 as a free newspaper and website. He persuaded 10 people to collective­ly invest more than $500,000 in the venture by claiming that he had put nearly $1 million of his own money into the project and had secured about as much in advertisin­g contracts.

In fact, he personally invested only a few thousand dollars in the Tribune, Reynolds acknowledg­ed in court Monday, and he forged the advertisin­g contracts. After printing two issues, he lacked funds to continue with a third, and advertiser­s began asking for refunds or free space in the future.

“They’re all true,” he said in court Monday of the fraud claims.

He has agreed to pay $512,000 in restitutio­n. He also admitted to owning several illegal guns, all of which he will now forfeit.

Reynolds already had a felony record for fraud and other financial crimes dating back to his teenage years. When he was charged in Alexandria federal court in 1995 with reselling stolen computer parts, he fled and was found in Georgia living under a fake name; he served six years in prison.

After his release, Reynolds became a successful Web designer and communicat­ions strategist for Loudoun Republican­s, including Sheriff Mike Chapman, Commonweal­th’s Attorney Jim Plowman, former state senator Dick Black and former County Board Chairman Scott K. York.

“There probably wasn’t a political campaign or political candidate that I didn’t touch in Loudoun County over the course of about three terms,” Reynolds said at a detention hearing earlier this year.

Reynolds said it was his political friends, including Loudoun County Circuit Clerk Gary Clemens, who “were pushing” him to get his voting and gun rights restored. Reynolds did so by petitionin­g then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) in 2012 and Loudoun Circuit Judge James H. Chamblin in 2013. Reynolds admitted that both petitions contained false informatio­n.

In 2015, Reynolds worked closely with Chapman on his reelection campaign, including obtaining and distributi­ng emails written by the sheriff ’s political opponent. The release of those emails was investigat­ed by a special prosecutor, who ultimately cleared Chapman of wrongdoing.

Reynolds, who is set to be sentenced in September, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

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