GLEN ALLEN, Va. (WTVR) – Jonnie Williams, the man at the center of the gift scandal has plagued Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for the last several months, will step down as CEO of Star Scientific, Inc., according to the company.
Williams, who founded the Glen Allen-based dietary supplement company, will step away from Star Scientific at the company’s annual shareholder meeting scheduled for Dec. 27.
Williams and his company made headlines this year as news of his relationship with Governor McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell unfolded over several months.
Federal investigators have been looking into whether or not Williams got anything in return from the governor in exchange for the nearly $150,000 worth of gifts and loans McDonnell and his family received from Williams over an 18-month period.
Some of the gifts included vacations, checks to McDonnell daughters for their weddings, golf clubs for the governor’s sons, a shopping spree for the First Lady, and even a Rolex watch.
Loans were intended to help McDonnell’s struggling real estate business.
While McDonnell has said in the past that the gifts and loans have been repaid, federal investigators are still investigating and deliberating whether or not to indict the governor.
Political watchdog Paul Goldman recently reported, on WTVR.com, about the detailed business failings of Williams--that go back to 1981.
"Some things are to coincidental to be a coincidence," said political watchdog Paul Goldman about the findings.
An article published in the Fredricksburg Freelance Star newspaper in January of 1981, discusses the collapse of Colonial Opticians, an eye glass business Williams owned.
The article reports that Williams abandoned the failing business by skipping town and leaving behind a $45,000 loan he still owed to the Small Business Administration.
In an effort to pay off his remaining debt, Goldman reports that it took an auction, where the remaining eyeglasses were sold, after Williams disappeared.
"This is a disturbing situation," said Goldman.
Goldman has recently been combing through internet archives looking for clues about William’s life before he became the man at the center of political scandal turned federal investigation into the actions of Governor McDonnell and his wife.
"One times, two times, three times, just when do you finally say wait a minute there's something that doesn't smell right here,” said Goldman.
Goldman’s research yielded dozens of articles linking Williams to a pattern of selling a big idea, inflating its worth and then skipping out on the business before it collapses. The articles reference dealings in car sales, optometry, laser surgery, pharmaceuticals and experimenting with tobacco products with medical benefits.
Goldman claims losses and lawsuits are checkered throughout Williams’ long history in business.
More recent news reports indicate that Williams has been helping prosecutors in their investigation of Bob McDonnell, giving them a very different story than the Governor. Goldman says given Williams’ past, prosecutors should be rethinking their strategy.
"You’ve got to ask yourself, can you indict the Governor of Virginia who has a clean record based on what this person has to say?, " said Goldman.