RICHMOND, VA—It's a scandal that involves an accused conman, an imprisoned Virginia lawmaker, a White House pardon and several prominent names in Virginia politics.
It's also the story of a family who's already dealing with pain; the pain of having a loved one locked away.
Phil Hamilton is a one time prominent Virginia delegate who's now serving federal time. He was convicted of using his position of power in the general assembly to get a bill passed that created a job for himself.
About the time Hamilton was on trial, his now ex-wife, Roxanne Burnett, met Joe Yancey, a man she thought was a well-meaning minister.
“For months we just talked about friendly things, friends we had in common and so forth,” Roxanne Burnett said about her conversations with Joe Yancey.
When former delegate Hamilton was sentenced, he ended up with about nine and a half years—it crushed his family.
“It doesn't make sense that there are violent criminals out there who receive much less time for hurting or murdering people than what someone received for supposedly accepting a bribe for a $40,000 a year job,” said Meredith Archer, Hamilton's daughter.
The family was desperate for someone to listen.
“I was trying to help my children get their father back; it turned into a nightmare,” Burnett told 8News.
It was a nightmare with the name Joe Yancey. Court records show the Louisa County man is a convicted felon, something the Burnett family didn't know.
“I can just not put into words how he is a real professional at doing the conning,” Burnett said. “He dropped names of powerful people that were interested in doing the right thing and having this case looked at again.”
Among the names, Delegate Joe Morrissey and his law partner, well known political analyst Paul Goldman.
Goldman didn't know how his name was being used until 8News showed his the proof.
“It's good that you and others are exposing it,” Goldman told 8News.
An 8News investigation exposed the series of lies, fake documents, promises of a presidential pardon and lots of money swindled.
“We're talking thousands of dollars?”— 8News Investigative Reporter AJ Lagoe.
“Yes.” — Roxanne Burnett
“More than twenty?” — 8News Investigative Reporter AJ Lagoe.
“Yes.” — Roxanne Burnett
“What did you get for that?” — 8News Investigative Reporter AJ Lagoe.
“A lot of things that were not true”— Roxanne Burnett
Roxanne Burnett showed 8News receipts indicating she'd turned over large sums of money to Joe Yancey.
Burnett tells 8News the money began changing hands when a contract was signed that appears to say Paul Goldman and Joe Morrissey's law firm was working on Hamilton's case.
“You thought you were paying Joe Morrissey and Paul Goldmans' law firm for legal services?”—
8News Investigative Reporter AJ Lagoe.
“Yes; absolutely.”— Roxanne Burnett
“You found out later you weren't?” — 8News Investigative Reporter AJ Lagoe.
“No the document was fraudulent.”— Roxanne Burnett
Burnett says Yancey told her that he and all the people working to free Phil Hamilton met with Vice President Joe Biden during his visit to the area to tout gun control, and a deal was hashed out for a pardon.
“At one point he told you he had a pardon in hand from President Obama?” — 8News Investigative Reporter AJ Lagoe.
“He did; he did” — Roxanne Burnett
Burnett says that when demands for more money began, along with wild claims that Hamilton was testifying against dangerous people as a condition of his pardon, and the family member's lives were in danger.
At first terrorized, then skeptical, Meredith Archer, Hamilton's daughter, began researching Joe Yancey online.
Archer found his criminal past, and did what he'd forbidden, directly contacted the lawyers supposedly working on her father's case.
Del. Joe Morrissey confirmed by email her suspicions—he was not working on her father's case “in any capacity.”
Law enforcement was brought in Yancey became a wanted man, charged with six counts of obtaining money by false pretenses.
Yancey turned himself in Wednesday afternoon. He posted bond and was released the same day.
For the Hamilton family, their hopes of seeing their father freed were crushed.
Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond