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Anderson, state tax official charged with embezzlement, dies by suicide

South Boston News
Anderson / October 08, 2021
Steve Hardie Anderson, a retired Virginia tax compliance supervisor who was charged in May with embezzling public funds, died by suicide on Friday.

Halifax County Sheriff Fred Clark confirmed Anderson’s death on Friday night. Clark said suicide was the cause but provided no further details.

His passing came on the same day Anderson was due to appear for a Friday morning hearing in Richmond City Circuit Court to review the status of his criminal prosecution on two felony charges, for embezzling public funds and computer trespass. A Richmond grand jury indicted Anderson in May, following an internal probe by the tax department and a subsequent investigation by the Office of State Inspector General (OSIG).

The alleged theft of public funds, according to OSIG, was tied to two tax department employees who are said to have granted Anderson access to tax department computer systems and “confidential taxpayer accounts.”

OSIG said its years-long investigation turned up evidence that some $1.3 million in public funds had been embezzled by Anderson. In a statement issued in June, OSIG said Anderson had repaid about $250,000 of the stolen funds.

The Virginia Attorney’s General’s Office was prosecuting the case for the Commonwealth. Anderson was represented by Richmond attorney William Dinkin.

At the Friday morning status hearing in Richmond, Dinkin told the court that his client’s absence was due to his emotional distress. A courtroom official who witnessed the exchange, Emerald Hammond, deputy clerk of Richmond City Circuit Court, said Dinkin told the judge that he had received a text message from Anderson around 9 a.m. “saying he wanted to end it all.” Hammond said Dinkin further told the judge that he had gotten in touch with the family and “it wasn’t looking good.”

Dinkin, reached by phone Friday afternoon, declined comment.

A status hearing can be held for a number of reasons, such as to set a trial date, arrange a plea agreement hearing or to discuss evidence discovery, said Hammond. The hearing concluded with the judge granting a continuance at Dinkin’s request.

Typically in instances where a defendant dies before a trial can take place, prosecution and defense lawyers will draft a consent order to the court asking that the case be dismissed, said Hammond.

Prior to his retirement a few years ago, Anderson worked for many years as a tax compliance supervisor for the Virginia Department of Taxation, and he served a term on the Halifax County School Board from 2001-2005. During his term as ED-2 trustee, he served for a time as board chairman.

Friends of Anderson recalled his record of service to the community — through his involvement with Hunting Creek Baptist Church, where he was a deacon, and the Dan River Baptist Association, for which he was a past treasurer — and through his civic volunteerism.

Mattie Cowan, a member of the South Boston Rotary Club, said she became friends with Anderson when she joined Rotary in 2012. Anderson was a Rotary member at the time.

“Steve was a really nice fellow,” said Cowan, who would go on to become chair of the Rotary scholarship committee, a job Anderson had filled previously. Cowan said she quickly learned that Anderson was unfailingly decent and dependable, “a family man” who “would talk about his family with lots of love

“If he told you he would do something, you never had to worry about it,” she said. “You knew he would be there, would do whatever you needed done, and would always pull his weight.”

Michael Lyon, president of the South Boston Rotary Club, said he got know Anderson shortly after purchasing the downtown mortuary business in 2014 that would become Brooks-Lyon Funeral Home. Lyon said he discovered that Anderson had a desire since childhood to become a funeral home director, although ultimately he would go into the tax field.

Anderson went to work for Brooks-Lyon Funeral Home, coming “on board to help us and he was just a fantastic human being,” said Lyon, adding, “He was someone I was proud to have in my sphere.

“All of our staff is just so heartbroken,” said Lyon. Anderson worked at the funeral home for some five years, ending his time there around 2019.

Lyon called Anderson a devout Christian who “stood on the principles that men and women are equals to the Kingdom of God … The Steve Anderson I knew was evangelical. He was desiring of people standing on the principals of Christ. He was very grace-driven.

“I have long since learned that no one is the total summation of one deed or one act,” said Lyon. “The man in my book was very principled …. It’s been an incredibly sad weekend.”

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