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Banker to spend 2 years in jail

A former Suffolk bank executive will spend two years in jail for embezzling from two local businesses and nonprofits.

Benjamin L. Wainwright Jr., former vice president and chief operating officer for SuffolkFirst Bank, pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of embezzlement and two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses. He was ordered to report to jail on Nov. 1.

Wainwright declined to comment after court Friday.

As part of the plea agreement, the state dropped 23 additional charges against the former Suffolk banker. He was initially charged with 12 counts of embezzlement, 12 counts of fraudulent entries by a financial officer, four counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and one count of forgery.

According to police records, Wainwright – a longtime Suffolk banker and board member of several nonprofits – first came under investigation in May 2007 after a local business, C&G Properties, contacted police alleging financial improprieties by Wainwright in a business deal made with their firm.

Local attorney and businessman Grier Ferguson, who is Commonwealth’s Attorney Phillip Ferguson’s brother, is a partner in C&G Properties. Local businessman Charles Pond is the other partner in the firm.

While investigating those allegations, detectives uncovered evidence indicating that Wainwright had embezzled a total of $76,000 from the Tidewater Occupational Center, a now-defunct organization that used to employ more than 150 mentally-disabled people, and the Suffolk Lions Club over the past 18 months, according to police records.

“The two charitable organizations have been fully repaid,” said Wainwright’s attorney Sonny Stallings.