CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK)—According to the State Auditor’s office, former Richwood, West Virginia mayor, Robert Henry Baber, pleaded guilty to a felony charge following a several-year investigation.
As part of a plea agreement, Barber pleaded guilty to defrauding the City of Richwood of $2,443.54, and the prosecuting attorney agreed not to pursue other felony charges.
“Without the undaunted pursuit by the law enforcement agencies involved in this case, there would be no accountability for the financial crimes committed to Richwood,” said Auditor McCuskey. “The plea today from Bob Henry Baber serves as a reminder that the State will not give up on pursuing fraud when we find it. Thanks to the Nicholas County Prosecutor and our partners at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General (DHS-OIG) for never giving up, and we look forward to seeing more state-level prosecutions in the future.”
The investigation, conducted by the State Auditor, Nicholas County Prosecuting Attorney, West Virginia State Police, along with law enforcement partners at DHS-OIG, lasted several years and looked into the illicit activities affecting the City of Richwood from derailed disaster relief funds.
The audit and criminal investigation determined that, between 2016 and 2018, more than $3.1 million of federal funds were received by the city, and part of those funds were used for personal purposes.
In his allocution, Baber stated, “I have profoundly disappointed the people of Richwood, Nicholas County, the State of West Virginia, my family, and my friends. I regret my actions from the bottom of my heart. I have had years to ponder my mistakes. It has been painful to reflect on the selfishness that compelled me to seek recompense that was not due to me. But however painful it has been to me, pales in comparison to the pain it has caused and to the damage ultimately done to both Richwood’s reputation as a town and to its recovery from the flood. It was a terrible lapse of judgment to press for payment for volunteer flood recovery work performed before I was sworn in as Mayor. I clearly and unequivocally recognize it was illegal, wrong, and unethical. I pressured Clerk Abby McClung to write the check in the amount of $2,443.64.”
Barber will be sentenced by Nicholas County Circuit Judge Stephen O. Callahan on October 12, 2021, and he faces 1 to 10 years in prison. He will also be required to repay restitution to the city. The court will determine the amount of this restitution. Barber could also be ordered to pay the full costs of the forensic audit performed by the State Auditor.