Charleston, WV – The West Virginia State Auditor’s Public Integrity Unit, working with the Tucker County Prosecutor’s Office and West Virginia State Police, brought to a close a fraud investigation at Canaan Valley State Park and Resort. Nearly $165,000 was stolen from the taxpayers of West Virginia.
That money was taken by Director of Operations Michael Chaney to buy a number of items for personal use, from high-end Christmas decorations to guns.
Chaney plead guilty to five counts of felony embezzlement. He was sentenced Wednesday, March 9th, in Tucker County Circuit Court by Judge Lynn Nelson. Judge Nelson handed down a sentence of one to ten years for each of the five counts, with the sentences to be served concurrently. Chaney was taken into custody following the hearing.
Chaney was the Director of Operations at Canaan Valley State Park and Resort. He worked for the management company, Regency Hotel Management, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the resort. Starting in May 2017, he started making purchases of tangible goods, which were paid for with state money, for his own use. The embezzlement was first discovered in October of 2020 when Chaney took medical leave. During his absence, invoices were discovered for items that were not on the resort property.
Chaney purchased 19 sets of Christmas decorations. The decorations were professional grade, ranging in price from $1,100 to $5,500 each, which Chaney used to make an elaborate display in his own front yard that included a nativity scene, a cross, an angel and other Christmas classics. Chaney also used the public dollars to buy 10 firearms, dozens of tools and building materials, and a Honda ATV, among other items.
“I’m proud of the work from our team in the Public Integrity Unit, assisting the Tucker County Prosecutor and State Police in this investigation to send a strong message that fraud and misuse of public money will not be tolerated,” WV State Auditor JB McCuskey said. “Our investigators compiled a list that is 20 pages long of all the items that Mr. Chaney bought for himself on the taxpayer’s dime. It is a gross abuse and today justice was served.”
“I would like to thank former Trooper Donelson, Trooper Schmidle of the Parsons Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, Tyler Kondo and Jim Watson from the Auditor’s Public Integrity and Fraud Unit and Sam England and Don McFarland from Canaan Valley for all of the hard work that was put into this case,” Tucker County Prosecutor Savannah Wilkins said.
Chaney paid $152,426 in restitution to Regency Hotel Management, which had paid the state back for the loss. Chaney also paid $20,000 to Canaan Valley Resort general fund for the cost of the audit. A Honda ATV, guns and other items were also returned to the state and auctioned to help recoup some of the money that was stolen.