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Former bank chief gets 17 years in prison for TARP fraud

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Is $400 million worth 17 years in federal prison? Ask Stephen G. Fields, who was sentenced Monday to spend that length of time in prison for massive bank fraud.

Fields, 49, of Chesapeake, Va., was found guilty May 24 after a 10-week jury trial on multiple charges including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and misuse of bank funds.

A former executive vice president and senior commercial loan officer for the former Bank of the Commonwealth, Fields was able to engage in an "illegal reciprocal relationship" with borrowers in financial trouble, who in turn helped him cover his own bank's failing financial health, said Christy Romero, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“The culture among senior executives at TARP applicant Bank of the Commonwealth was rotten at its core, and Fields, as executive vice president and senior commercial loan officer, was a principal contributor to the stench of corruption and entitlement at the bank,” Romero said.

The court ordered Fields to repay $333 million to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and he must forfeit $62 million he made in proceeds.

Three of Fields' co-conspirators testified against him at the trial, revealing that they performed requested favors such as "buying Bank of Currituck stock, bailing out the bank president’s son on bad investments, and purchasing bank-owned property with fully-funded Bank of the Commonwealth loans."

Fields also withheld hundreds of past-due loans from reports given to the bank's board of directors.

The TARP IG said one of the bank's largest borrowers paid more than $6,000 to install granite countertops and other amenities in Fields' kitchen.

Fields' crimes contributed significantly to the failing of the Bank of the Commonwealth in September 2011 --- a failure which cost taxpayers at least $333 million in losses, according to the IG.

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