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Larceny charges certified to Halifax grand jury

Judge James Farmer (retired) of Lynchburg certified two charges for larceny by false pretenses against former South Boston Speedway NASCAR Chief Steward Gene Lawson to a Halifax County Circuit Court Grand Jury following a preliminary hearing yesterday.

In presenting her evidence, Commonwealth’s Attorney Kim White told Farmer money loaned to Lawson on two occasions was not repaid, despite a document prepared and signed in one case and another document prepared and agreed to in principle but not signed in another.

Halifax businessman Ward Burton testified Lawson approached him at South Boston Speedway last fall and asked him if he would loan him money to complete a flooring job at an athletic center located in Winston-Salem, N.C.

After a half-dozen telephone calls and after having seen Lawson at the track several more times, Burton testified he loaned Lawson $10,000, with Lawson writing him a check for $10,000 plus $4,000 interest which ultimately was not good.

Lawson indicated that the job would take four months, but Burton said he became suspicious after talking to several other people at the speedway.

Burton added he called Lawson’s cell phone number, his phone number in North Carolina and the number for a tile service firm that Lawson allegedly worked for.

“I was told there was no such business at that address, and I knew something was wrong,” said Burton, adding there was no way he would have loaned the money if he knew Lawson wasn’t contracted to do work at the athletic center.

Burton testified that he initially did not cash the check given him by Lawson, but approximately two weeks after the check was supposed to clear he traced the check to a bank in North Carolina, only to find the account had no funds in it.

Burton explained to Lawson’s attorney, Mark Williams, he simply wanted to help someone who wanted to help himself.

James Wade, an employee at South Boston Speedway, testified he had known the defendant “off and on” for about 10 years.

Wade said he had two separate dealings with Lawson, the second time when Lawson approached him for a $5,000 loan last December to complete one flooring job and start another.

Wade testified Lawson gave him a check for $5,000 plus $2,000 interest, and Wade said he was supposed to get his money back on May 15.

Lawson told him it was okay to cash the check at that time, but the bank called him several days later to say it didn’t go through, according to Wade.

“[Lawson] told me to send it again, but it came back for insufficient funds, Wade testified.

“Gene told me he would pay me in cash at the race the following Saturday, but I didn’t see him again until today,” Wade added.

That was the second time he’d loaned money to Lawson for another flooring job ($5,000), Wade told Williams, but the first check ($5,000 plus $2,000 interest) cleared when he deposited that one.

Two others testified at the hearing, including the co-owner of the athletic center, who testified he had neither met Lawson before nor contracted him for work there.

South Boston Police Investigator Chris Carswell testified that he and an associate traveled to a location in North Carolina to verify an address given in the defendant’s documents as one for the athletic center without success.

Carswell testified he also traveled to an address listed on Lawson’s documents as the location of his tile business, but found the doors locked and no one present.

Carswell told Williams he saw letters addressed to the defendant “shoved through the door.”

Following the hearing, White indicated there could be additional charges against Lawson forthcoming.

“I anticipate presenting additional charges involving additional victims to the grand jury,” she said.