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Tellers, CEOs Among Bank Criminals

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Defendants in bank crimes include tellers and chief executive officers ranging in age from 28 to 64. Two defendants used ill-gotten proceeds to — among other things — purchase tickets for professional sports, while a quartet of defendants are accused of staging a bank robbery to cover up an embezzlement scheme.

Hotel financier Guy Mitchell went on quite the spending spree with the $40 million in loans he received after bribing employees of the failed Integrity Bank in Miami.

Federal prosecutors say Mitchell has pleaded guilty to illegally spending money that he was supposed to use to renovate a hotel on a Florida mansion, a private island in the Bahamas, expensive jewelry and cars, private jet travel — and even Miami Heat Tickets.

Integrity Bank employees Douglas Ballard — a loan officer who took bribes from Mitchell — and Todd Foster have also pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. Mitchell, 52, faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

A Florida bank executive, herself, also used stolen funds to pay for professional sports tickets.

Susan Emily Jones, 50, has pleaded guilty in Tampa federal court to stealing $824,301 from Citicorp, where she served as a Citibank vice president and senor business director. Prosecutors say Jones used her authority to take the money, which she spent on Tampa Bay Buccaneers season tickets, personal credit card expenses, charitable contributions, prepaid debit cards, auto-related expenses, travel and other goods and services. Jones was sentenced to two years in prison. She has forfeited her home, her BMW and $7,166.

Four former bank employees went so far as to stage a robbery to cover their alleged embezzlement of more than $100,000 from the Western State Bank in Ulysses, Kan.

Federal prosecutors said the following Western State Bank employees were stealing from the bank: Amber Gutierrez, 32, the bank’s head teller; Hattie Wiginton, 32; Ashley Cravens, 28; and Linda Wise, 59.

Prosecutors say Gutierrez, Wiginton and Cravens staged a phony robbery of the bank in July of 2010, taking an undetermined amount of cash. Wiginton allegedly made false statements to the FBI when she said she did not know who robbed the bank. Gutierrez, Cravens and Wise allegedly embezzled funds by falsifying cash deposit slips and depositing funds in their personal accounts. If convicted they face prison sentences of up to 30 years and fines of up to $250,000.

A grocery store was forced to provide pieces of its business to the children of the chairman of a failed Illinois bank in return for loans, according to federal law enforcement officials.

The alleged bribery is among the charges faced by Zulfikar Esmail, former chairman of the board of Premier Bank of Wilmette, Ill., and other bank senior executives. Also charged in a federal indictment were Shamim Esmail, former executive vice president and general counsel; Robert McCarthy, an attorney and board member; and board member William Brannin. Federal and state authorities said in a statement the “wide-ranging and long-running criminal enterprise” cost the federal government more than $70 million, including $6.8 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds.

TARP funds were also illegally used in Ashland, Mo., by Darryl Lane Woods, the former chairman and chief financial officer of Mainstreet Bank. Woods has admitted to using $381,000 in TARP funds to buy a Florida luxury condo. He faces a year in prison and must pay restitution and a $100,000 fine.

The Tifton Banking Co. in Macon, Ga., was receiving TARP funds even as its president and chief executive officer was running a 5-year scam that included replacing bad loans with new loans — including a Small Business Administration loan — and conspiring with others to obtain money, credits, assets, securities and other bank property. Gary Patton Hall, 47, cost his bank and the SBA $2.8 million. He has pleaded guilty to federal charges and could spend up to five years in prison and face a $1 million fine.

James E. Bishop, the former chairman and CEO of Skagit County Community bank in Washington, faces prison after admitting he filed false reports to mask the bank’s heavy loan losses. In his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Bishop admitted that he and his son, who was the bank president, concealed from federal regulators a growing list of bad loans between 2009 and 2011. For instance, in June of 2010, the bank reported $6 million in past due loans when the actual amount was $13 million.

Bank manager Deborah A. Radcliff used forged cashier’s checks to embezzle and misapply $247,249 from the Weston, W Va., Huntington National Bank branch. Federal prosecutors say Radcliff, 51, used her position as branch manager to create phony cashier’s checks in the names of customers. She would then forge the depositor’s name and use the cash for herself. Radcliff has pleaded guilty and has been ordered to pay restitution in the amount she stole as well as a $1.5 million fine. She faces up to 40 years in prison.

Also going to prison is Irene Quansah, 37, a former teller coordinator at the Sun Trust Bank in Kensington, Md. Quansah has admitted to stealing $144,980 from the accounts of elderly bank customers and a restaurant. She will spend two years in prison and must pay restitution and $30,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.

To secure mortgage loans for unqualified customers, Jason Sterlino was paying bribes to Bank of America loan officers in California. Sterlino, 34, has pleaded guilty to federal charges and faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. He admitted to not only bribing the loan officer, but also receiving kickbacks of $5,000 from the customers’ mortgage broker. All told, Sterlino made about $100,000 in the scheme, prosecutors said.

Bribery is also at the heart of a case involving a loan officer at Spencer Savings Bank in Elmwood, Park, N.J. Jose Dominquez, 46, has admitted to federal authorities that he accepted bribes of $55,529 to help customers receive funds and favorable loan terms. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

James Dai faces prison time for allegedly procuring loans for other borrowers. Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania said if convicted of all seven counts, Dai faces up to 65 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine.

Former bank employee Deborah Shaw, 53, will serve 30 months in prison after admitting to federal authorities that she stole $327,842 from the Merchants and Farmers Bank in Holly Springs, Miss. She must also pay back the stolen funds.

In McAllen, Texas, former Inter National Bank of McAllen employee Edna Edith Sepulveda has surrendered to federal authorities after she was indicted for stealing $232,351. Federal prosecutors say Sepulveda put bank funds for her own use into her parents’ accounts. She faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

A 64-year-old Minneapolis bank teller has pleaded guilty federal charges of embezzling $35,520 from the Security State Bank. Head teller Cheryl Lynn Holzer used the money to pay her mortgage and other bills. She faces up to 30 years in prison.

Mary Helen Perez worked at Westamerica Bank in Sanger, Calif., for 29 years. But she will spend the next two years in three months in prison after admitting to federal charges of stealing $249,793 from customers accounts over a four-year period.

Michelle Laudato pilfered CD accounts in her scheme to steal more than $178,000 from Webster Bank in Bristol, Conn. Laudato, 35, a teller supervisor, has pleaded guilty to federal charges and faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

Four defendants found guilty in a fraud scheme that cost Virginia-based Bank of the Commonwealth $70 million want their convictions overturned and a new trial. Following a 10-week trial a jury found the four guilty of bank fraud conspiracy and other related charges.

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