VIRGINIA

Bob McDonnell: Ex-mansion chef alleges forced private catering

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 RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The former chef at Virginia's Executive Mansion claims that Gov. Bob McDonnell required him to cater private and political events and accept as payment taxpayer-purchased food that he is now accused of stealing.

Todd Schneider makes the allegations in court papers supporting his motion to dismiss four embezzlement charges against him. A hearing is set for July 8 in Richmond Circuit Court.

"Schneider was told - as a state employee - to provide catering services for events held at the Mansion and to do personal shopping far beyond the scope of his employment as the cook for the family in residence at the Mansion," the brief filed Monday by defense attorney Steve Benjamin says. "Although the McDonnells used Schneider as their personal shopper and private caterer, state officials refused to issue checks to pay Schneider or his catering company for these extra services."

Most of the private events Schneider catered were for McDonnell's political action committee, the court papers say.

"These are claims made by an individual facing four felony charges of embezzlement," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "Assertions regarding this matter should be properly considered in a court of law."

Schneider claims that he told the attorney general's office about the alleged catering abuses, as well as the McDonnells' use of state employees to run personal errands and their use of state credit cards to buy personal items, early last year. He says that as the governor's lawyer, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli should have bowed out of the Schneider investigation as soon as he was told of the alleged wrongdoing. Instead, the attorney general did not withdraw until after Schneider was indicted.

Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney Gregory Underwood has argued that his appointment in May to prosecute Schneider's case cured the conflict, and the trial should proceed as scheduled in October.

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