By Bill Cresenzo
Brian Ray Dinning, the Suffolk tax attorney accused of defrauding investors out of $2 million, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to two criminal counts.
Dinning, 48, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in downtown Norfolk to one count of wire fraud and one count of bank fraud. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Dinning wore a suit during the hour-long hearing, answering Judge Raymond Jackson's questions with a “Yes, your honor" and a “No, your honor.”
He remains in custody. He will be sentenced on Oct. 2.
Dinning was charged with bilking investors out of $2 million in what prosecutors called a Ponzi scheme. He claimed that he was using the money for projects in Africa. Prosecutors claimed he pocketed the money.
Calling his proposed projects social entrepreneurship, Dinning raised millions from investors in the medical, academic and evangelical Christian communities. Many of his investors were affiliated with Regent University.
He was indicted in June 2012 on 25 counts of wire fraud. But authorities couldn’t find him for more than two months. Then, on Aug. 20, he was arrested in Canada. Investigators had tracked him down through his blog, where he defended his investments and said his efforts in Africa were derailed by a negative press campaign.
One of his victims, Mario Blanco, said Monday that he met Dinning about five years ago. He said he gave him $57,000 to buy property and build a church in Africa that would be named after Blanco's daughter Raven, who was eight when she died.
The church never materialized, Blanco said.
The bank fraud charge is in relation to Dinning's attempt to secure an $828,000 mortgage from Village Bank. Prosecutors allege that he falsely claimed that he was employed by Trident Systems, falsely stated that he earned $250,000 per year and failed to disclose outstanding legal obligations.
For background information, visit insidebiz.com/dinningvideo