The man behind the gifts ‘Jonnie R
Greeting their guests, the first couple toasts a special vintage to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the governor’s house, but they can’t shake the tension. For months dolabuy.su , the McDonnells and their children have endured a series of tawdry disclosures of gifts: cash, a lush wedding meal for one McDonnell daughter and Fake Louis Vuitton Replica Bags a $10,000 wedding gift to another, Oscar de la Renta clothing, a Louis Vuitton handbag, rides in a $190,000 Ferrari, a Rolex watch, Final Four basketball tickets, private jet trips and other items. The latest disclosures are loans totaling $120,000 to Maureen McDonnell and a real estate partnership owned by the governor and his sister.
All of this came from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the 58 year old founder and chief executive of Star Scientific, an obscure and struggling Henrico high quality replica handbags china County company. Though the gifts legally aren’t required to be disclosed because of Virginia’s lax laws the possibility of a quid pro quo has resulted in an investigation by the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney. The FBI also is investigating Star Scientific’s securities 1:1 replica handbags trading since 2006 and McDonnell’s relationship with Williams.
The worst case scenario is that McDonnell could be indicted or forced to resign. At the least, his reputation as a wholesome, can do Republican moderate with presidential timber has taken a terrible drubbing. Last week, he announced he had repaid more than $120,000 in loans received from Williams and apologized.
The man in the spotlight is defined now by the man in the shadows. The close relationship between McDonnell and Williams raises questions about why the McDonnells would risk so much politically for a rich but relative small fry like Williams.
The barrel chested, silver tongued salesman from Spotsylvania County often is described by those who know him as extraordinarily bright and generous. His largesse has been much in evidence with his intimate friends the McDonnell family and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who once held, but didn’t fully disclose, shares he owned in Star Scientific. Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor fake designer bags , has been forced to recuse himself in several legal cases because of his links to Williams. On July 18, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring concluded that Cuccinelli did not violate state laws in connection with the Star Scientific matter.
Williams, who declined to be interviewed for this story, seems a bundle of contradictions. An outsider from humble beginnings who loves the good life, Williams has played Pied Piper to the powerful, mesmerizing them with his entrepreneurial ideas.
“Jonnie is a genius,” said Patrick McSweeney, an influential Richmond lawyer and Republican Party operative, who was a director of one of Williams’ companies a decade ago and also represented Portsmouth residents’ constitutional challenge of tolls for the Midtown and Downtown tunnels. “He has an uncanny ability to see a central path to a solution that other highly trained people have missed.”
With a two year business school degree and an uncommon talent for wooing potential investors, Williams has started businesses as wide ranging as an eyeglass shop in the late 1970s, laser eye surgery technology and the manufacture of cigarettes with fewer cancer causing nitrosamines. Now out of the tobacco business, Williams is pitching Star’s Anatabloc, a tobacco based dietary supplement and skin cream he says helps with inflammation and a host of other ailments.
Along the way, he’s surrounded himself with bright, talented people, said Samuel P. Sears Jr., a Boston lawyer, who once was president of Star Tobacco and Pharmaceuticals, a Williams company. “He’d set up the companies but he wouldn’t operate them. He did the introductions.”
Yet Williams’ record is marred by a number of flops and probes. Williams has run afoul of regulators, consumers and shareholders. As a young businessman, he had scrapes when his strip mall eyeglass shop went out of business. Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuted Williams for hiring a newsletter analyst to write research reports plugging a stock whose price he was trying to pump up.
“He’s basically a promoter,” said his former co defendant Victor Kashner, a Sarasota, Fla., banker who ended up being suspended from trading for three months in the late 1980s by the SEC for his role in the bogus stock report incident. Williams settled the case for $295,000 without admitting guilt. Kashner also paid a fine without admitting guilt.
The current controversy involves three high quality designer replica handbags wholesale lawsuits by shareholders claiming Star didn’t keep them abreast of federal subpoenas the company received early this year for financial data going back to 2006. One of the suits also alleges Star misled investors by falsely suggesting the cheap louis vuitton bags from china uk famed Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had officially vetted its research.
Meanwhile, the firm has lost $231.5 million during the past 10 years, according to securities filings with the SEC.
Despite such missteps, Williams manages to keep strong and long lasting relationships with business associates whose educational and career accomplishments far surpass his. “He’s not intimidated by them and they respect him,” Sears said.
The board chairman and president of Star Scientific, for example, is Paul L. Perito, 75, a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former federal prosecutor and official in the Nixon White House in the early 1970s. A Star board member is Christopher C. Chapman Jr., 60, a graduate of Georgetown University medical school, who’s been a senior researcher at drug giants Quintiles/BRI and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Perito could not be reached for comment, and Chapman declined comment on the advice of his lawyers saying, “We’re not supposed to talk about the case.”
Another close associate is Richard Sharp, long regarded as one of the brightest minds in the Richmond business scene. Sharp helped drive the growth of mass retailer Circuit City and founded the highly successful CarMax. He was appointed to Star’s board in early 2011. He has since left the board. Sharp is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and he and his family are aggressively raising funds for Alzheimer’s research through the Stay Sharp Fund.
McSweeney said Williams had been treating Sharp with Anatabloc to help improve his memory.
McSweeney and his wife, however, take it regularly. “It’s really good for your health,” he said.
It had better be. Star’s survival depends on its revenues. Although sales for the product are picking up, the company lost $8.2 million in this replica louis vuitton year’s aaa replica designer handbags first quarter in a long string of profit negative quarters. Star may run out of cash by early 2014 unless more revenues start flowing, according to its 2012 annual corporate filings. “Our future prospects, therefore, are dependent on the expanded distribution and consumer acceptance of our dietary supplement products and cosmetic products,” it stated in its 2012 annual securities filings.
Williams wasn’t the largest contributor to McDonnell’s campaigns. From 2008 to 2013, Star and Williams donated $145,000 to McDonnell and his political groups, not including the gifts, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. But McDonnell has received much more money from coal giant Consol ($357,010), cigarette maker Fake Louis Vuitton Replica Bags Altria ($287,465) and utility Dominion ($256,291), among other large corporations and wealthy individuals. Companies such as these have a lot more to gain from contacts in the governor’s office than does Star, which deals more with federal rather than state regulators.
While declining to give any details Discount Replica Louis Vuitton Bags about Williams’ largesse, McDonnell repeatedly has said he’s done nothing to help Williams nor has he used his state powers to promote him or his company.
The governor is reported, however, to have helped set up a meeting for Williams with a top state health and human services policy official in August 2011. Two weeks later, Maureen McDonnell asked Williams for a $6,500 Rolex, which she gave to her husband. McDonnell has declined comment about the watch. He has boosted his legal staff. attorney from Roanoke.
After a recent radio interview at WRVA AM 1140 for his “Ask the Governor” show, McDonnell told Style Weekly, a Ricmond publication owned by Pilot Media Cos., which also owns Inside Business, he met Williams “five or six years ago. He’s a donor for me and my PACs [political action committees]. My wife and I are friends with him and his wife and we’ve had dinner. He’s also the CEO of a publicly held company in Virginia so, of course I know him. I try to know the heads of all public companies in the state.”
Williams’ chief conduit into the governor’s inner circles appears to be McDonnell’s wife. A former cheerleader for the Washington Redskins football team, Maureen McDonnell knows about marketing. She’s a health enthusiast who ran small business selling creams and other ointments for 13 years. On May 23, 2011, The Washington Post reports, Williams wrote a $50,000 check to her, described as a loan. The purpose is unclear. The governor and his sister later received $70,000 in loans from Williams to help with faltering beachfront properties they own in a corporation called MoBo Real Estate Partners, according to the Post.
In his 20s, he sold cars at a local Ford dealership in Fredericksburg, where he often was spotted tooling replica louis vuitton bags around town in a Mercedes Benz 450L. He Perfect Quality Louis Vuitton Replica seemed the hero protagonist from a modern day Horatio Alger novel and was featured in a Fredericksburg Free Lance Star newspaper article headlined replica louis vuitton bags , “Super Salesman.” He was quoted as saying, “Money can be fun spending it is most definitely fun but it’s not the most important thing to me.”
After selling cars at a local Ford dealership, he entered the eyeglass business. His firm, Colonial Opticians, a strip mall eyeglass store, eventually went bust. Lenders were stuck with thousands in unpaid loans. Some employees paychecks bounced. One who asked not to be identified told the Free Lance Star in a 1981 article: “Jonnie could sell a snowball to an Eskimo. But when it came to backing up what he was selling, now that was another story.”
Still a lover of the finer things, Williams owns multiple houses. His main residence is an estate once owned by noted Ohio industrialist Harry Figgie. Figgie moved his empire from Cleveland briefly to Richmond and built Virginia Commons before business turned sour in the 1980s. His conglomerates later went bust.