By: Jennifer Britt
Former Canaan Valley State Park and Resort Director of Operations, Michael Scott Chaney, was sentenced in Circuit Court on March 9 by Circuit Court Judge Lynn A. Nelson. Chaney, age 57, of Harman, plead guilty to five counts of felony embezzlement. Chaney was charged with stealing from taxpayers nearly $165,000 worth of items used for personal use, from high-end Christmas decorations and guns to having fuel delivered to his residence.
Chaney will serve a sentence of one to ten years for each of the five counts in a state facility, with the sentences to be served concurrently. Chaney was taken into custody following the hearing.
Chaney worked for the Canaan Valley State Park and Resort overseeing the day-to-day operations of the resort for the management company Regency Hotel Management. Starting in May 2017, Chaney started making purchases of tangible goods, which were paid for with state money, for his own use. In October of 2020 the embezzlement was discovered when Chaney took medical leave and invoices were discovered for items purchased that were not on the resort property.
According to letter released by the State of West Virginia State Auditor, John B. McCuskey, Chaney purchased 19 sets of Christmas decorations as well as 10 firearms, dozens of tools, building materials and a Honda ATV, among other items.
The professional grade decorations Chaney used to decorate his own front yard ranged in price from $1,100 to $5,500 for each set. The decorations ranged from an elaborate nativity scene, a cross, an angel and many other Christmas classics. The decorations from Motion Industries totaled in cost close to $41,000.
The Honda ATV, four of the seven guns and other items were returned to the state and auctioned to help recoup some of the money embezzled. The guns were described as customized special edition firearms with elaborate designs and specifications. Chaney claims in court testimony three of the seven guns and many tools were taken to auction and sold for his own cash benefit.
Per his plea agreement, Chaney paid $152,426 in restitution to Regency Hotel Management, LLC. and $20,000 to Canaan Valley Resort general fund for the cost of the audit.
In a statement released by Tucker County Prosecutor Savannah Hull-Wilkins, Wilkins said: “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 of the Auditor’s Public Integrity and Fraud Unit, General Manager of Canaan Valley Resort Sam England and Superintendent of Canaan Valley State Park, Don McFarland, for all the hard work that was put into this case.”
Chaney, an Air-Force veteran, addressed the court stating: “I just want to prove I can be a law-abiding citizen.” Chaney also mentioned he had a wife, mother, and five children and five grand-children that relied on him to be there. Chaney apologized to everyone he hurt and said, “I don’t know why I did what I did, it started as something small that turned into a mushroom cloud out of control.”
Before being taken into custody Chaney hugged his tearful family and said “Everything is going to be ok. I’m sorry and I love you!” Chaney is currently being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail awaiting transfer to prison.