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Councilman’s identity fraud, forgery trial begins

PORTSMOUTH (AP) A Portsmouth councilman’s identity fraud and forgery trial will begin this morning with jury selection.

Portsmouth Councilman Mark Whitaker serves as an assistant pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church and is charged with 20 offenses including two counts of identity fraud and 11 of forgery. He’s pleaded not guilty, The Virginian-Pilot reports.

The charges arose from an investigation into Whitaker’s church, its development company and its now-defunct credit union.

Court documents filed by special prosecutor Andrew Robbins say seven credit union loans totaling $35,000 made in 2013 had interest rates beyond what was allowed by banking regulations and didn’t appear to have appropriate approvals.

Whitaker’s attorneys and the Portsmouth NAACP branch have said the investigation was biased and politically motivated.

The trial is scheduled to last three days.

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