Home Former Virginia bank manager pleads guilty to $2.4M embezzlement scheme
Public Safety, Virginia

Former Virginia bank manager pleads guilty to $2.4M embezzlement scheme

Crystal Graham
judge banging gavel in courtroom
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A Weems man pleaded guilty yesterday to designing and executing a scheme to defraud his employer, a local financial institution, by issuing fraudulent loans to other individuals, and thereafter using the loan proceeds for his own purposes.

James Stevens, 46, of Lancaster County, was employed at Primis Bank (formerly known as Sonabank, Eastern VA Bank, and Southside Bank) from 2000 to June 2023 as a commercial lender, branch manager and assistant branch manager.

According to court documents, in his capacity as a commercial lender for Primis, Stevens had the authority to issue loans to borrowers on behalf of the bank, and he also had the ability to access customer accounts, open customer accounts and transfer funds in and out of bank customers’ accounts.

Beginning in 2008, and continuing through June 2023, Stevens exploited his position of trust at Primis Bank to issue numerous fraudulent loans in the names and using the identities of numerous other individuals.

Stevens would often create fraudulent documentation to support these loan applications, using the personal identifying information of multiple Primis Bank customers in the process.

Stevens would then use proceeds of these fraudulently issued loans to make payments on other fraudulent loans, to pay himself or to pay others he associated with.

Through this loan scheme, Stevens caused a loss to Primis Bank of more than $2.3 million.

Stevens also exploited his personal relationship with one bank customer to access the customer’s personal savings and checking accounts and to withdraw funds from the customer’s accounts. Stevens used his access to the customer’s accounts to change the mailing address on the accounts so that the bank customer remained unaware of the thefts, which eventually totaled more than $97,000.

Altogether, the frauds and thefts perpetrated by Stevens resulted in a total loss to Primis Bank of $2,477,643.

Stevens is scheduled to be sentenced on May 30.

He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Garnett and Robert Day are prosecuting the case.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.