WTKR anchor caught up in International Fraud

 Julie Bickford

Julie Bickford

FTVLive was the FIRST to tell you that WTKR had sacked anchor Julie Bickford

We also reported that she was under a federal investigation for tax fraud. 

Now it appears that the case against her has gone international. 

The Virginia Pilot reports that Bickford was dating Theodoros "Terry" Grontis and he was sharing a Hampton home with her.

The couple was spending lavishly - leasing expensive sports cars, buying fancy clothes and jewelry, and traveling often.

But federal authorities say the money was ill-gotten. They say Grontis and two others bilked crime victims, divorced people and even a lottery winner out of more than $1 million.

Bickford's bank account became key to laundering the money, according to court records.

When federal agents came calling in 2011, Grontis took off. The authorities believe he is in hiding in Greece.

The two accomplices, also Canadians, have admitted the crimes and will be sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court here.

Bickford, 35, is scheduled to plead guilty to a related tax crime this morning. She has been cooperating with the authorities, court records indicate, and she resigned from her job at WTKR NewsChannel 3 last week.

Neighbors on Mohawk Road in Hampton noticed the men in dark suits swarming Bickford's waterfront home a few months ago.

"There was a ton of them over there," said Rick Garrity, who lives across the street and has known Bickford since she was young.

Special agents with the IRS and the FBI raided Bickford's home that day, seizing her computer and searching for clues to the Grontis operation.

Garrity didn't know what was going on at the time. He and his wife thought maybe Bickford was being stalked and the men were there to protect her.

But Bickford knew. Two years earlier, on Sept. 26, 2011, IRS agent Brian Pelfrey called her. Pelfrey could hear Grontis in the background directing her answers. Two days later, Grontis was gone.

He drove his leased Jaguar to Buffalo, N.Y., where he was met by his brother. Together they crossed the border into Canada. Before leaving, he told Bickford that he needed time away to deal with the tax issues, according to a court affidavit filed by Pelfrey.

Court filings indicate Bickford was oblivious to the crimes being committed inside her home. Pelfrey called it "a wide-ranging scheme of international complexity."

The filings say Grontis, 42, portrayed himself as a sophisticated, savvy business consultant.

More on the story from the Virginia Pilot