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REGION BRIEFS: Helicopters collide at Fort A.P. Hill

Two Apache helicopters collided during training over Fort A.P. Hill early Tuesday morning, but there were no injuries and the aircraft landed safely, according to an Army spokesman.

Lt. Col. Virginia McCabe, a public affairs officer with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., said Tuesday that the A–64 Apaches were supporting a one-day readiness exercise.

None of the four pilots—there are two to each aircraft—were injured, but they were taken to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center as a precaution.

She said the helicopters landed safely in unpopulated training areas on Fort A.P. Hill following the collision. No other helicopters were involved in the exercise.

All flight operations on the 76,000-acre base, which straddles Caroline and Essex counties, were suspended following the incident.

The U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, based at Fort Rucker, Ala., sent an accident-investigation team here. They’ll be joined by a team from the 82nd Airborne Division to determine the cause of the collision, and the extent of damages.

—Rusty Dennen

Value of Virginia farm products grows

RICHMOND—The value of Virginia farm products grew by 29 percent from 2007 to 2012.

That’s one of the preliminary results of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture. Virginia agriculture officials and Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the findings Monday.

According to the report, the value of Virginia products grew to $3.8 billion in 2012 while the average value of products sold per farm increased by one-third over the five-year period, to $81,540.

The loss of farm land also was reversed during that period. Farm land increased by 3 percent, to 8.3 million acres. But the number of farms decreased by 3 percent, which means Virginia farms are getting bigger.

Meanwhile, the average age of farmers increased by more than a year to 59-and-a-half.

Man sentenced in FFA embezzlement

CHRISTIANSBURG—A Christiansburg man convicted of embezzling more than $700,000 from the Virginia FFA Foundation will spend five years in prison.

Eugene Todd Mills had entered an Alford plea to embezzlement charges in September 2013. An Alford plea means a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but agrees that evidence is strong enough to convict them.

The Roanoke Times reports that the 42-year-old Mills was sentenced Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court. He also must pay restitution.

Report says state commerce secretary broke lobbying rule

RICHMOND—Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones may have broken a law that prohibits federal agencies from lobbying Congress, according to federal investigators.

Jones was deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year when emails were sent on his behalf to 1,000 recipients, including 46 of his own employees, asking them to contact several U.S. senators and encourage them to vote in favor of a budget bill.

Those emails violated the department’s internal policy and appear to have violated a federal anti-lobbying law.

Marcus appointment advances in Senate

RICHMOND—A Virginia Senate panel is recommending longtime GOP operative Boyd Marcus be confirmed as Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s pick to lead the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control board.

The panel voted along party lines Tuesday to approve Marcus’ appointment, which is likely to face stiff resistance in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg said Marcus’ appointment may be legal, but it gives the appearance of impropriety.

Marcus shocked the state political world by endorsing McAuliffe last year. Campaign finance records show Marcus was paid $140,000 to consult for the campaign. His spot on the ABC board pays $130,978 a year.

Democratic Sen. Creigh Deeds of Bath County said Marcus was qualified for the position and the Senate should give the governor latitude in his appointments.

Norfolk to host Stihl US lumberjack championship

NORFOLK—Norfolk will host the 2014 Stihl Timbersports Series U.S. lumberjack championships this summer.

Stihl Inc. said Tuesday that the U.S. Pro and Collegiate Championship is scheduled for June 20-June 22 at the Norfolk Scope Arena. The competition will be aired by ABC in September.

Lumberjacks will compete in six categories: hot saw, single buck, springboard chop, standing block chop, stock saw and underhand chop.

Matthew Cogar of Diana, W.Va., will defend the pro title he won in 2013. His father, Paul Cogar, and cousins Arden Cogar Jr. and Scooter Cogar, also will compete.

Man sentenced for defrauding former U.Va. athlete

LYNCHBURG—A former AAU basketball coach has been sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for defrauding a former University of Virginia basketball player.

U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy says 60-year-old Thomas Patric Boggs of Brookneal was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Lynchburg. Boggs pleaded guilty to wire fraud in December.

According to prosecutors, Boggs became Travis Watson’s mentor after the pair met when Watson was a high school freshman in Texas. Watson played for Virginia from 1999 to 2003.

Boggs offered to invest a portion of Watson’s earnings from playing professionally overseas. Between 2009 and 2011, Watson wired $358,000 to accounts controlled by Boggs, who admitted using nearly all of the money to pay personal expenses for himself and his relatives.

—Associated Press