Former Virginia Beach Economic Development Director sentenced for embezzling nearly $80K in city funds

Former Virginia Beach Economic Development Director indicted for misuse of city funds
Posted at 4:49 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 16:50:59-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The former director of the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development, was sentenced on four felony counts Monday for embezzling nearly $80K in city funds.

Colin D. Stolle, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Virginia Beach, announced that 64-year-old Warren D. Harris was sentenced to four counts of Embezzlement by a Public Officer.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison all suspended but will serve six years of unsupervised probation. Harris must pay back Virginia Beach $79,479.50.

Stolle argued for Harris to serve some active period in prison.

Harris pled guilty on August 4, 2021.

Had this case gone to trial, officials say evidence would have proven that Harris used public funds for personal use during his tenure as director between 2007 and 2018. The total amount of fraudulent expenditures was approximately $79,479.50.

In 2018, the city's auditor conducted the initial investigation into the department and found out that Harris had been fraudulently using city funds to fund personal trips to locations all over the world, including Dubai, Panama, Spain, California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Illinois.

The audit also revealed that Harris used city funds to place advertisements in sports publications such as the NCAA Final Four official program. The placement of the advertisements brought with them tickets to sporting events, which were city property that Harris improperly used for personal purposes.

After these findings, the auditor turned it over to police the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, which began a joint investigation with the FBI.

“Economic development done right is vital for the city,” Stolle said. “Mr. Harris used lies and deceit to betray the trust of the City, his supervisor, and most importantly the citizens of Virginia Beach. That broken trust is serious and must be repaired.”