Former Virginia secretary of finance sentenced to 10 years in prison

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John W. Forbes II, a former Virginia secretary of finance, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison for defrauding the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission of $4 million, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Forbes, who served seven months in the cabinet of former Gov. Jim Gilmore, had pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud in misusing a grant from the commission.

The Tobacco Commission was established in 1999 to aid former tobacco counties in Southern and Southwest Virginia using money from a massive legal settlement with major tobacco companies.

According to court documents, Forbes sought a $5 million grant from the commission in June 2001 for his educational organization, the Literary Foundation of Virginia. Forbes was a member of the Tobacco Commission board at the time but did not vote on his own request.

Forbes told the commission board that, through investments, he would leverage the $5 million grant to $15 million to be used for educational programs in Southern and Southwest Virginia. The $5 million grant was sent to the foundation in $2.5 million installments in July 2001 and February 2002.

According to court documents, the Literary Foundation didn’t exist before the commission approved the grant. Forbes appointed his sister, his then-wife’s best friend, the in-live boyfriend of that friend and a co-worker to the foundation’s board. Forbes’ then-wife was paid a salary of $130,000 a year as executive director. Forbes also paid himself a $130,000 salary.

Money from the foundation was transferred to other organizations controlled by Forbes.

Court documents say that only $942,000 of the $5 million grant was used for educational programs. The remaining funds, totaling about $4 million, were used for Forbes’ personal benefit, including salaries, investments and a new home.

Before sentencing, Forbes’ family filed letters with the court saying that his life began a downward spiral after his son died from leukemia.

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