Portsmouth City Council member says he’s innocent after indictment

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - City Councilman Mark Whitaker says he's innocent after he was indicted on criminal charges last week.

Whitaker was scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning, but only his attorney, Don Scott, was there. A trial date has been set for November, according to the court website.

Outside of court, Scott handed reporters a statement on behalf of Whitaker. "I look forward to vigorously defending my name and I am confident that I will be found innocent," the statement reads.

Whitaker plans to stay in office, his attorney said. A city council meeting is scheduled for Monday night.

Court documents say Dr. Mark Whitaker wrote bad checks and forged the signatures of members of his church where he served as assistant pastor.

Dr. Mark Whitaker is not only a Portsmouth City Council member, but the assistant pastor of a church and a former School Board member.

He faces 20 charges, many of which are fraud and forgery related to writing bad checks. The allegations all center around his misuse of money at New Bethel Baptist Church where his father is the head pastor. The 20 indictments were filed last week but the crimes allegedly occurred in 2013 and 2014.

The criminal investigation was launched by the Portsmouth Sheriffs Office, Dept. of Treasury and National Credit Bureau who found several alleged victims including the President of a contracting company.

Whitaker is a father of four. He served on the Portsmouth School Board in 2002, he was elected to City Council in 2014 and has been an ordained minister for 20 years.

A Special Prosecutor from Frederick County has been assigned to the case.