Coniglio pleaded guilty July 28 in Richmond Circuit Court in Manchester to a charge of moral turpitude, a misdemeanor, having made a false entry on a public record. Style was unable to reach Coniglio using his listed telephone number. His attorney, Carl Muzi, says Coniglio was a dedicated employee with a stellar work ethic who pulled an "ill-advised joke" and now suffers the consequences.
Coniglio had been a sheriff's deputy since 2002, assigned to security detail at the John Marshall Courts Building. As a reservist in the U.S. Army, he'd recently returned from serving 18 months in Iraq, says Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony Spencer, who prosecuted Coniglio.
On Dec. 23, Coniglio was working security at the courts, which were closed for the holidays, when he obtained a blank warrant-in-debt form from the clerk's office. Some say what happened next was done in jest; others say it was motivated by revenge.
Before moving to Richmond with his wife and two children, Coniglio had worked at a high school in Buffalo with a man named Lawrence L. Wolfe, with whom Coniglio told investigators he'd had a strained relationship. Spencer says Coniglio "created a fictitious name and address and named Wolfe as a defendant" in an attempt to sue Wolfe for unpaid goods and services.
Court documents show that Wolfe whose family owns dog kennels received the notice and then hired an attorney, who contacted the Richmond General District Court for details. Workers in the clerk's office immediately recognized numerous problems with the document and suspected it was a fake, Spencer says.
Last week, the unusual case became more so, Spencer and Muzi say, when Judge Richard Taylor rejected a plea agreement reducing felony charges against Coniglio to a misdemeanor, which would have resulted in a fine and suspended jail time. Instead, Spencer says, Judge Taylor asked the attorneys to amend the plea to include some incarceration.
The result: Coniglio received a month in jail, with five months suspended, and will be forced to pay $450 in restitution to Wolfe. But the misdemeanor involving fraud, Spencer notes, means Coniglio will no longer be allowed to work in law enforcement. He was fired from his job as deputy following the two felony indictments.
Coniglio will serve his jail time either in Henrico or Chesterfield counties because of his ties to Richmond City Jail. "The 20th of August he's set to depart" for another tour in Iraq, Muzi says.
Richmond Sheriff Michelle Mitchell says Coniglio's case has surprised all who worked with him. Of the fraud, she says, "It was a stupid thing to do and it went too far." Brandon Walters
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