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BY PORTSIA SMITH
A former Westmoreland County School Board member and popular pizzeria owner who was arrested for distributing imitation drugs has been cleared of all charges.
Five charges against George "Brian" Oliff of Montross were dropped in Westmoreland County Circuit Court Friday by special prosecutor Matthew Ackley of Henrico County.
Oliff, 49, owns Angelo's Pizza and was the District 3 representative on the Westmoreland School Board from 2003 to 2011. He was arrested in May on five counts of distributing imitation drugs.
Ackley agreed with defense attorney Mark Gardner that the evidence against Oliff was not sufficient to support the charges.
The charges were based on an informant's claim that he purchased imitation drugs from Oliff on five occasions and from two restaurant employees on three other occasions.
Westmoreland Sheriff C.O. Balderson said that when the substance was tested, it was negative for cocaine and any other Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 drugs.
Gardner said the informant wore a recorder, and undercover state troopers were in the restaurant at the same time. Other than the informant's word, there was nothing to corroborate the allegations, Gardner said.
"Neither of the recordings showed any exchange between him or Brian or any words that were incriminating," Gardner said. "And none of the undercover officers saw an exchange."
Gardner said no drugs or money were found on his client.
Oliff's two employees, Lois Gayle Wright, 36, and Josh R. Sanford, 31, were cleared of the same charges on Friday.
The informant, who was already facing felony charges, was arrested again recently for grand larceny.
Oliff, who spoke with The Free Lance-Star by telephone Tuesday night, said the charges have had a negative impact on his reputation and business.
He said he noticed a loss of business, and the stress of it caused him to lose about 25 pounds.
He said for the first time in 21 years, he is hesitant to come to work.
"I didn't think anything like this could ever happen to me," he said. "I didn't realize I was so vulnerable. One day, you're at the top. Now, it just makes me think, is it worth it?"
The worst part, he said, was when his 12-year-old son came home upset because other students were calling his dad a crack dealer.
Oliff said he does not know why the informant made the accusations against him.
"I do know of him, but I do not personally know him," he said. "I'm not going to put the blame on anyone, but this guy has definitely fooled a lot of people."
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419