More indictments handed down in bank fraud

Published 9:47 pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

Six more individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in an alleged fraud that contributed to the largest bank collapse in Virginia since the 2008 financial crisis.

The indictments follow guilty pleas from five other individuals for their roles in the fraud. The bank had a location in Suffolk, and two of those already found guilty owned dozens of residential and commercial properties in Suffolk, mostly in the downtown area.

“The Bank of the Commonwealth’s high risk lending practices resulted in soaring losses after the 2008 financial crisis,” Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a press release. “Led by former CEO and Board Chairman Edward Woodard, these bank insiders and their favored borrowers allegedly conspired to hide the rapidly deteriorating financial condition of the bank through fraud.”

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

Those indicted Wednesday were:

  • Edward J. Woodard, 69, who served as the bank’s chief executive officer and chairman of the board for more than 30 years until he was forced to step down as chairman in April 2010 and retire from the bank in December 2010. He is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, false entry in a bank record, multiple counts of unlawful participation in a loan, multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution, and multiple counts of misapplication of bank funds.
  • Simon Hounslow, 47, who served as executive vice president and chief lending officer until the bank closed in September 2011. He is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds, false statement to a financial institution, and multiple counts of false entry in a bank record.
  • Stephen G. Fields, 48, who served as an executive vice president and commercial loan officer until he was terminated in December 2010. Fields is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, multiple counts of false entry in a bank record, multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution, and multiple counts of misapplication of bank funds.
  • Troy Brandon Woodard, 35, the son of Edward Woodard, and who was employed by a wholly-owned subsidiary of the bank as a vice president and mortgage loan specialist until he was terminated in January 2011. Brandon Woodard is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and multiple counts of unlawful participation in a loan.
  • Thomas E. Arney, 56, who leased office space on the third floor of the Bank’s headquarters and owned and operated a residential development company, several restaurants, rental properties, and a car restoration business. Arney is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, unlawful participation in a loan, misapplication of bank funds, and multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution.
  • Dwight A. Etheridge, 47, who owned and operated a residential and commercial development company, as well as an employment staffing company. Etheridge is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds, and multiple counts of false statement to a financial institution.

The executives allegedly masked the bank’s true financial condition after the volume of its troubled loans and foreclosed real estate soared. Bank insiders also allegedly overdrew demand deposit accounts to make loan payments, changed terms of loans to make them appear current, and provided preferential financing to troubled borrowers, among other schemes.

From 2008 up until its closing in 2011, the bank lost nearly $115 million. The indictment alleges that the bank’s failure will cost the federal government through the deposit insurance fund in excess of $260 million. The forfeiture notice in the indictment attributes at least $71 million as illegal proceeds of the fraud.

Business partners Eric H. Menden, 53, and George P. Hranowskyj, 47, both of Chesapeake, are the two who own numerous properties in Suffolk. Both have pleaded guilty to a $41 million bank fraud that contributed to the failure, as well as a separate historic tax credit scheme that cost state and federal governments more than $2 million and investors more than $8 million. They will be sentenced this fall.

Two of their former employees, Natallia Green, 29, of Norfolk, and Maria Pukhova, 30, of Virginia Beach, have been charged with making a false statement on a loan application to the Bank of the Commonwealth. Green already has pleaded guilty.

“For more than 30 years, this community put their trust — and their money — in the Bank of the Commonwealth,” MacBride said. “These charges portray a bank leadership that betrayed that trust for their own profit at the detriment to their own bank, its shareholders and the community it served.”