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Ex-Virginia Beach economic development director will have to pay back $79K+ of stolen money

A judge said Warren Harris has to pay back more than $79,000 to the city. Harris pleaded guilty to embezzlement and said he used the money for personal travel.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Author's noteThe video above is from November 2019.

A circuit court judge sentenced former Virginia Beach Economic Development Director Warren Harris to pay back more than $79,000, after Harris pleaded guilty to stealing it from the city.

Harris held his role from 2007-2018. The commonwealth's attorney's office said during that period of time, Harris stole tens of thousands of dollars to use for personal travel to Dubai, Panama, Spain, California, Texas, Florida and a few other states.

He also used city money to advertise about the NCAA Final Four program, get tickets to games, and use those tickets, personally.

In 2021, he pleaded guilty to four charges of Embezzlement by a Public Officer. 

The judge in the case sentenced him to eight years in prison, but suspended them. That means he'll be on probation for the time being, but could serve those years in prison later. Typically, if people conduct themselves well during their probation period, their suspended prison sentences are later dismissed.

Colin Stolle, Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney, did ask for Harris to spend some time in jail.

"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."

Following a 2018 audit by the city, the Virginia Beach Police Department, Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney for Virginia Beach, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Attorney's Office worked together to investigate this case.

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