Skip to main content
Press Release

Former Primis Bank Manager Pleads Guilty to $2.4 Million Embezzlement Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – 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.

According to court documents, James Stevens, 46, 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. 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—on behalf of his unwitting bank employer—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 (previously issued) 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 Primis 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, 2024. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark R. Colombell accepted the plea.

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

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:24-cr-10.


Press Officer

Updated February 22, 2024

Financial Fraud
Identity Theft